Your Airport As A Business
Ed Rosiak- President California Piltos Association
Most pilots have at one time or another struggled to communicate how they feel about flying. To non-pilots we must appear to be an odd lot, given how we are seemly driven to exercise our skills.
Did you ever stop to think that part of the experience of flying is the airport? Without the airport there would be no fixed wing flying. Therefore, the airport is part of the flight experience. You know the feeling. You are excited about the flight and as you are driving towards the airport and it comes into view, you smile in anticipation of the flight ahead. If you are following me, and in agreement with my observation so far, then it also makes sense that we are prone to protect our ?airport rights?, because they lead to the experience of flight. Airport rights are comprised of our ability to operate from an airport in an easy and inexpensive manner. Therefore any attempt to raise costs is received with less then enthusiastic response from pretty much any pilot. By the way, I am no different. I just never thought about the work required to keep an airport open and operational.
My outlook changed in March when I was fortunate enough to attend the Bay Area Airport Managers (BAAM) meeting in Napa California. The Bay Area Airport Managers is made up of the airport managers around the San Francisco Bay area; from Sonoma to the north, Livermore to the east, and Hollister to the south. The purpose of this group is straightforward, to share issues and successes they experience as a result of running their respective airports.
It was very interesting to hear about the issues faced by the airport managers. Probably the largest issue was one of funding, followed by headcount. Sound familiar? Have any of us who have managed an organization or business not struggled with the same issues? I guess I just never thought about airports as a business prior to the meeting. That has changed now that I have a better understanding.
Ever wonder why the hangar rents seem to be so high? There are multiple issues here. First, airport managers have go through the same project justification you have to at your place of business. Secondly, no one would argue that they are given excess resources of any kind. New hangars require a loan to build, typically based upon 17 years of financing. When you do the math you will come to the cost of the hangar rent being asked. Airports are not typically profit centers, although some make a good return for its sponsor.
Want to find out more about the costs associated with airport operations? Seek out your airport manager. Why not buy him/her lunch and ask then to educate you. I know I have a different outlook now. One more thing; BAAM is a group of dedicated, hard working individuals who are working to make ends meet. I am sure they are representative of most airport managers in our state, and we are lucky to have them.
This article was published in the CALPILOTS May/June newsletter