We all know the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA.org) has selected the Prescott Airport as one of its four premier destinations for the AOPA's 2016 Fly-Ins. This is a significant event and once again a profound acknowledgement that the Prescott Airport is a leading aviation facility and destination in the United States. Although I am excited about the 2016 AOPA Fly-In coming to Prescott, it also makes me wonder...
Within recent years, the Prescott Municipal Airport and businesses on the high altitude tarmac, have received national attention and awards. In 2014, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT.gov) named KPRC Airport of The Year. Just recently, U.S. News and World Reports named Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's (ERAU.edu) online bachelor program the best in the U.S. Moreover, it is well known in aviation circles and throughout the world that ERAU is the ranking aviation university and is also regarded as having one of the finest engineering programs in the U.S. ERAU has thousands of alumni around the world who regularly return to their beloved airborne campus and Prescott with their families.
In 2013, Guidance Aviation, a leading collegiate helicopter flight school, also based at the Prescott Airport, was named the 2013 U.S. Small Business Administration's Business of The Year in Washington, D.C., beating out hundreds of small business's nationally for the prestigious award. Additionally, Guidance Aviation gained international attention as one of its employees received the prestigious Agusta-Westland International Safety Excellence Award in helicopter aviation. Recently, the airport's newest hi-tech business was born, X-Copter.aero, adding more jobs for the City. These airport based schools, their flight lines, and aviation businesses including Prescott first class fixed based operator (FBO) Legend Aviation, in conjunction with the city's airport operations and administration produce hundreds if not thousands of jobs directly and indirectly for Prescott. Can you name any single location or entity in Prescott that does so? According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.gov), the Prescott Airport is one of the busiest airports in the U.S. - this is obviously due to the flight training operations. And of course, Prescott has commercial air service, connecting tourists and business owners like myself to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and California. It doesn't take rocket scientists to figure out that the Prescott Municipal Airport is very important to the City of Prescott - but pilots figured it out a long time ago.
To understand all that we have missed over the years as an aviation community and city is clearly conveyed in the upcoming fly-in. A main reason why the AOPA selected the Prescott Airport for the fly-in is because of an ERAU graduate and Guidance Aviation employee named Dave Roy. Because Roy reached out to his fellow ERAU classmates in the upper echelon of the AOPA, we now have an estimated 300-500 aircraft from all over the southwest landing in Prescott and injecting $300,000 - $500,000 into the local economy. Better yet, the AOPA - Prescott Airport Fly-In will coincide with the 2016 ERAU Octoberwest - Homecoming. ERAU's Octoberwest typically brings in 1,000 students and alumni. I should also mention that the entire AOPA event is being funded by the AOPA, not costing the Prescott a dime. So, you can see the importance and influence of aviation, the airport and ERAU. Again, because of ERAU and its graduates, the Prescott Airport is well pronounced throughout the aviation world - giving our region a significant advantage in leveraging future success - if we would just take advantage of it and play the cards we've been holding for years.
I'd like to add that the Prescott Municipal Airport now has the best airport manager we've had in years; John Cox is doing an outstanding job and the airport community truly appreciates him. Another reason to jump on the opportunities ahead - we have a great team in airport administration.
Many are now aware of the Airport Master Plan that is being executed and the effort to create a "regional airport". Is our City going to actually follow through this time? I commend our city officials and Mayor as they wrestle the complicated tasks of making the Prescott Airport a world class aviation community. The 2016 Prescott Airport - AOPA Fly-In could easily be our take off point to make the Prescott Airport a serious economic driver and preferred landing point for students, graduates, employees, manufacturers and tourists. We literally are holding all the cards to win. We just have to play them. Let's double down and make Prescott fly right.