In this post I’m going to list five reasons why you should support your local airfields, even if you don’t like aeroplanes and flying.
1. Airfields are a hub for business and prosperity
The transportation links provided by a nearby airfield are a big advantage when it comes to winning bids and new contracts for businesses in the area. Investors from the UK and abroad are far more likely to choose your town or city if there’s an airfield within easy reach.
The airfield operations and day to day activities create jobs for all sorts of people, not just pilots and airport staff. There are all the ancillary services that supply and maintain the airfield, everything from ground and building maintenance to florists and taxi firms.
2. Smaller, regional airfields are the future
With the arrival of electrically powered aircraft it is the regional airfields that will come into a new lease of life. Aircraft with all electric motors already exist and prototypes of larger aircraft that can carry a dozen or so passengers to larger airports or between cities are now being tested. It’s only a matter of time before these electric aircraft (which are obviously quieter) start appearing in our skies.
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is a phrase often used to describe the aspect of aviation that includes small, passenger-carrying aerial vehicles within and between urban areas. They will need bases in which to operate and your local airfield is the obvious choice.
Regional airfields and airports result in fewer cars and coaches on the roads, travelling the long distances to and from the major airports.
3. Airfields are a wildlife haven
You may find it hard to believe but you only have to give a little thought to the layout of an airfield to understand why this is true.
Airfields have wide open spaces on either side of the runway and a secure boundary. Obviously the area immediately either side of the runway is devoid of trees and vegetation, and grass is regularly cut. However, along the boundary areas there is ample room for wild flowers, nesting birds, and small mammals.
As they are out of bounds they are kept free of any molestation by human activity, which leaves them free to provide a home for flora and fauna. Many is the time I’ve watched an aircraft disappear into the distance having taken off from a small airfield and heard the sound of skylarks replacing the sound of aero engines.
While learning to fly at Southampton Airport in the 1980s I was on final approach, concentrating on the guidance given by my Flight Instructor, when the operator in the control tower advised that deer were crossing the runway and we were strongly advised to abort the landing and to ‘go around’.
Airfield owners and managers are well aware of the environmental concerns and are amenable to making improvements in these boundary areas.
4. Airfields are often not just about aviation
It’s not unusual for airfields to have areas adjoining it for light industrial units, educational institutions, and recreational facilities. Solent Airport is a prime example of this. These mixed-use airfields benefit the wider community in all kinds of ways, providing areas in which to study, work, train, or play. The airfield’s wide open spaces might be used for community events and special occasions, whether it’s an historic celebration or a regular car boot sale.
5. Airfields preserve the wide open spaces
We all know that some airfields have been sold off to provide a new housing estate and you may think that this is the worst that could happen, but is it?
Would you prefer that the runway was turned into a storage facility for hundreds of unsold cars? Or perhaps a dump for old car tyres or some other form of waste or storage? Both of these options would result in a large increase in HGV vehicles in the surrounding roads. Both would result in an eyesore of a site where few people were employed and from which local businesses gained little benefit.
Once flying stops at an airfield it’s very rare for it to start again. Occasionally this is a good thing, as in the case of Greenham Common where the chill of the Cold War has been replaced by nature, wildlife and recreation, but near and within the urban sprawl, it is the airfield that provides relief from the monotony.
So in conclusion, you might be interested in flying but you may yet find that you benefit from your local airfield directly or indirectly.
You may have no desire to fly as a passenger from your local airfield, but your child or grandchildren may one day embark on a career thanks to the first job or the inspiration that the airfield down the road provided.