CalPilots’ Three-Tiered Airport Defense

Introduction: What is the problem?

General Aviation (GA) airports are under constant attack from development and land use issues. There is a lack of understanding regarding airport contributions to the local and state economy, as well as their part in the state’s transportation infrastructure.
When originally built, the airport was typically placed in an area with little development around it. As the community matures and grows, the airport typically has to deal with inappropriate development proposals, which in most cases the airport sponsor has little understanding of, or is ignoring due to dealing with pressure to allow said development. The result is our GA airports are being closed at an alarming rate.

The general public, including most politicians and government officials, have little understanding of the value of their airport. They don’t understand its place in the transportation infrastructure hierarchy. In fact, most don’t even understand that an airport is part of the transportation infrastructure in the state and nationally.

Unfortunately, this lack of understanding fosters the perception that airports are for the rich and not the general public, which is simply not true. As pilots and aviation advocates, we must change that perception through education. In the meantime, we need to work much harder at promotion, preservation, and the protection of this important community asset – the community airport.

It is very important for the pilot/aviation advocate to educate him/herself regarding these issues. It is difficult to communicate effectively regarding an issue when everyone is not on the same page. The CalPilots web site is an excellent place to start your education process with the myriad of airport specific information available there.

Calpilots History

CALIFORNIA PILOTS ASSOCIATION MISSION: The California Pilots Association is a non-profit public benefit California Corporation formed in 1949. The mission of our statewide volunteer organization is to preserve, protect, and promote the state’s general aviation airports, as well as pilot’s rights.

We have long recognized that the state’s general aviation airports are more than irreplaceable transportation infrastructure assets.

  • Studies have confirmed the financial benefits of general aviation airports as regional economic engines.
  • They also serve as disaster recovery centers – demonstrated during the now annual wildfires across the state, and in the past during the major earthquakes.
  • Airports also serve as an alternate means of travel and are as important as the highway system serving the community and they deserve just as much attention and reasonable funding.

Please Join Us

Times have changed; the large national pilot organizations do an admirable job, but can no longer do it all, therefore every one of us has to become more involved. Ask yourself, if not you, who will protect your airport?

CalPilots 3-Tiered Airport Defense Strategy


Tier 1 – Local

Who better to understand what the issues are, and what the status is at an airport than the pilots who are based there? If you don’t belong to your local airport organization, then join it. If you don’t have a local airport org then create one – we can help. The bottom line is everyone has to participate in protecting the state’s GA airports. If you don’t, you won’t like the alternative.


There are a number of ways you can contribute to protection and promotion of your airport. Each is important to your airport’s long term viability. Here are a few:

  • 1. Join your local airport organization
  • 2. Attend your County Airport Land Use Meetings
  • 3. Form a business relationship with your City / County Planners
  • 4. Attend all City or County Sponsor airport meetings
  • 5. Attend Airport specific meetings
  • 6. Look for CALPILOTS Chapters, listed on our web site. There may be one at your airport, or close to it that can help you
  • 7. Respond to any negative letter regarding your airport in the newspaper or in electronic media. Remember, perception is reality to the uniformed. Be respectful, and abide by the rules for responses
  • 8. Create a good working relationship with your airport manager

Local Contacts:

Tier 2 – Statewide Organizations

Not every state has its own general aviation organization. Fortunately, California does. CalPilots has been in existence since 1949, and continues to promote, preserve, and fight for our general aviation airports – the large commercial airports don’t require our assistance.
The statewide airport advocate organization is important because it maintains statewide contacts and information, as well as existing strategies that can be implemented. Statewide airport advocate organizations can also advise and assist the local airport orgs when issues arise.

Why Reinvent the Wheel?

Airport issues are fairly predictable. The local airport organization should be aware of any issues that affecting their airport and should communicate with their statewide airport org regarding noteworthy issues. This is not to suggest that national organizations should be left out. What we are stating here is that a process, or hierarchy, has to be established.

Why? There are too many airport issues, and the numbers of continue to grow. Subsequently, we have to better organize to become more effective.

Here are some ideas related to statewide airport organizations:

  • 1. Join Calpilots
  • 2. Attend all state aviation airport meetings
  • 3. Partner with your state aviation planning agency – a good working relationship is very important. CalPilots works with the California Division of Aeronautics, who does an excellent job for the state
  • 4. Learn about land use around airports. This can be accomplished by working with the state aviation agency and some, but not all, county planners (CalPilots has found that many city or county planners have no knowledge of the critical planning required around airports). California’s Division of Aeronautics has an excellent manual on airport land use planning which can be downloaded from our web site
  • 5. Attend airport professionals meetings. There are many state and regional airport organizations which are typically open to anyone with an interest in airports
  • 6. Attend Airport pilot and business meetings
  • 7. Non-profit statewide orgs can create chapters which can benefit from the experience and non-profit status of the mother organization

Tier 3 – National Organizations

Our national pilot organizations are a critical piece of the three-tiered airport defense strategy. Membership in one is required to ensure that each maintains its ability to support statewide or local airport/pilot organizations. If you do not belong you should.
These national pilot organizations maintain a large presence in Washington DC which is critical to interface to our congressional representatives who require constant reminders of the importance of general aviation to the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

The National and Statewide organizations must be in lockstep and in support of each other. Local Airport Organizations, while encouraged to engage with the National Organizations, must also create and maintain a business relationship with the Statewide Organization. It takes all three to be successful against the never-ending and growing attacks on our GA airports.

National Contacts:


  • Everyone has to do more if we are to preserve our airports
  • Every pilot should belong to all airport/pilot orgs in the three tier strategy – don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish regarding these issues
  • No matter how busy we are, each of us can do something – regardless of how small

Introduction: What is the problem? General Aviation (GA) airports are under constant attack from development and land use issues. There is a lack of understanding regarding airports contributions to the local and state economy, as well as their part in the state’s transportation infrastructure. When originally built, the airport…
In "Airport Support"

Most Frequently Asked Questions - California Pilots Association Q: What is the California Pilots Association Mission? A: Established in 1949, we are a statewide non-profit committed to the support of our state general aviation airports and flight privileges. Our objectives are: Growing General Aviation Airport/infrastructure support and advocacy…
In "General"