Let me start with some statistics from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that might shock readers.
As you drive by the Prescott Airport heading North toward Chino Valley on State Route 89, you look right down the main runway. Were you aware that this main runway is the third busiest runway in the state of Arizona? And yes, that statistic includes the Valley airports and Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Were you aware that Prescott Ernest Love Field is the 37th busiest airport in the United States?
A large part of that traffic at the Prescott Airport is flight training and that brings us to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. With Prescott’s mostly sunny weather, there are many flying days available for flight training. In addition, there are other companies besides Embry-Riddle that do flight training in both aircraft and helicopters that contribute to this traffic as well.
There is also a very robust general aviation and experimental aviation community that contributes significantly to flight activities at the airport.
All these companies and organizations are located in Prescott and the Quad Cities area because of the climate and because of the airport. If the airport were a small single dirt runway air strip, does anyone believe ERAU would have ever located a campus in Prescott? No, because that would be totally unsuitable for flight training on a large scale.
Imagine what the Quad Cities area would be like with no ERAU. There would be fewer apartments, fewer houses, fewer businesses in general because many jobs and students would not be in town. Many attractions, such as the Jim and Linda Lee Planetarium, would not be here. As an aside, if you have not attended any of this planetarium’s free shows, you’re really missing something!
All these additional people and businesses provide both the Quad Cities and the state of Arizona tax revenue that would otherwise not exist. The tax revenue, particularly locally, enhances the quality of life here in the Quad Cities region.
Air transportation at Prescott airport has been problematic through the years that I have lived here. I’m sure you are aware that the new Skywest/United Airlines service is commencing operations here, but were you aware that a significant factor in this airline’s decision to provide service in Prescott was the presence of ERAU?
The pilot shortage I talked about last month in the airline industry is very real and airlines are taking proactive actions to ensure a pipeline of new pilots to meet future needs. In a briefing to the PAUA (Prescott Airport Users Association), Airport Director Dr. Robin Sobotta cited flight training and ERAU as one of the factors in the Skywest/United Airlines decision to submit such an attractive bid.
Prescott’s new airline service will make flying from Prescott affordable and more convenient than in times past. For example, prior transports had to go into the commuter airline concourses at Denver and Los Angeles. Then, you had to be shuttled over to the main concourses to catch your connecting flight. With this new service, you go right into the same concourse as your connecting flight. Fares are competitive, too, particularly after you factor in the time and cost to go down to the Valley to catch a flight out of Sky Harbor. You end up spending just about the same time and money to fly from Prescott to get a connecting flight as you would going down to the Valley. My wife recently priced a trip and booked a flight out of Prescott because it was roughly the same time, cost and certainly less hassle.
A vibrant and active airport supports a plethora of businesses and groups that contribute to the growth and prosperity of the region. An airport with convenient air service enhances the quality of life locally and connects the region to the world. QCBN
By Lance Leighnor
Lance Leighnor has four decades of experience in general aviation aircraft, and active management of rental aircraft since 2011. Lance is the managing member of Leighnor Aircraft. He can be reached by phone at 928-499-3080, by email at lance@LeighnorAircraft.com or via the Leighnor Aircraft web site at www.LeighnorAircraft.com.