California Not a Leader When it Comes to GA Airports

Virginia Rewards Pilots For Using Airports
Encourages Visits To 66 Public-Use Fields, Other Events
Virginia isn’t only for lovers anymore. Pilots who fly into Virginia airports may earn rewards from the state’s aviation department, as part of the Virginia Aviation Ambassadors Program, for trying new destinations around the commonwealth. The program is part of the Virginia Department of Aviation’s efforts to promote the state’s 66 public-use airports, reports The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Officials also hope to encourage pilots to attend state fly-ins and safety seminars, as well as Virginia’s aviation museums. The program has three participation levels, and is open to all pilots and passengers. Participants keep track of the airports they visit, and events they attend, by collecting stamps… which are then placed in a program passport.

AOPA member Tom Mahoney tells the pilot advocacy organization he completed the program, and earned a leather flying jacket. More importantly, though, it provided him several adventures that he may not have tried otherwise.

“It was great to explore the whole state and land at so many different airports,” he said. “As pilots we always practice the same approaches at the same airports, but this gave me experience landing in many different environments. Some runways are real narrow, there are a few that aren?t paved, and some sit right on top of mountains. Some are real short, and there?s one you can?t land at.”

That airport, of course, is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, located just outside the nation’s capital. DCA is technically a public-use airport… but only if that “public” is flying on commercial aircraft, no GA planes allowed. But that doesn’t mean pilots can’t visit DCA, and earn credit for doing so; they simply must drive there.

From his own personal experience, Mahoney says, the program is a great motivator for trying something different… instead of always flying the same old $100 hamburger run. The program has also encouraged new pilots Mahoney knows to spread their wings.

There’s little reason other states couldn’t follow Virginia’s lead, to give their own airports some much-needed, positive visibility.

“I?d love to see other states do something similar, even offering a patch or other small incentive,” Mahoney said. “It?s a great way to support GA airports, businesses, and tourism.”

FMI: www.doav.virginia.gov/vaap.htm

Editor’s Note: Virginia has recently lost funding for this program, the state is still to be congratulated in that it understands that its airports are part of the state’s transportation infrastructure and play an important role. California on the other hand, sees its airports as a cash cow which don’t require care and support.

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