Mon, July 22

My Turn: Exactly, what is happening at the Cottonwood airport?

Over the last several months there has been much controversy regarding the airport. Along with controversy it seems there are also rumors, innuendos, misinformation and falsehoods. This article is intended to provide the facts with respect to our airport.

First I think it is fundamental to understand how the airport is regulated. The legal name explains a lot. We are the Cottonwood Municipal Airport. The airport is owned by the City of Cottonwood, no different than any other City property. Under the law, Arizona Revised Statutes, only the elected City Council may make and administer the law; that is, make rules that are law and spend public funds. Also under the law they may elect to have staff such as the City Manager perform the day-to-day operation of city functions in which the airport is included.

The Cottonwood airport is not something new. It has been here since the early 1930s. When the city first took possession the airport was primarily a place for local private recreational pilots. It serves the community as any public facility for those who had interest in its form of sport similar to a City Park, baseball diamond or Library all that serve the general good of a community. What makes us unique is most towns have baseball diamonds and libraries, but not many have airports.

Just 15 years ago there was but one hanger building on the airport, nine or 10 single-engine airplanes and one twin-engine airplane. We now have a modern terminal facility and 25 hangers that house 33 aircraft, seven of which are jet-powered. In addition, there are 34 aircraft permanently based on the ramp for a total of 67-based aircraft.

Many of the aircraft are used as business tools and if it were not for the airport several of those owners would not have selected Cottonwood as a place to be. Our airport supports all in the Verde Valley, whether it be for fun and sport, Medical Air Ambulance, fire-fighting activities or to help our local business prosper and grow.

Two years ago, the city leaders recognized that the management of the airport requires a certain degree of technical knowledge. Consequently, they established the Cottonwood Airport Advisory Commission. The key word here is advisory as only the City Council, under the law, can make policy.

The Airport Commission is a major step forward. Prior to this, several of us recognized things that needed attention but we never had a formal and legitimate voice. So now equipped with this voice, what have we done in the short 18 months since the Airport Commission began?

The Airport Commission has initiated or assisted in:

• Establishing a Transit Parking Area

• Establishing a Helicopter Landing Area.

• Creating a perimeter road along the west fence of the airport.

• Installed new and larger wind tees.

• Installed a powered, main vehicular gate.

• Creating a basic set of operating rules.

• Installed a Self-Service Fueling System

• Painting the facia of the covered tie down.

• Installed new runway lighting.

• Installed night reflectors on the taxiway.

• Installed a new Visual Slope Landing System for both runways.

• Installed new Runway End Identification System for both runways.

• Installed new runway and taxiway signs.

• Initiated an Instrument Approach for Runway 32

Yes this was all done in a short 18 months.

Additionally the Commission has investigated all the areas, considering the limited space available on which we can construct future hangers or covered parking. As you are probably aware, the Federal Government, the State and the City are extremely short of funds. We are still interested in looking for ways to make this happen but the immediate future is not too bright. We are also working on getting an Automated Weather Reporting System and resealing the Ramp Area, which are our top priorities.

Recently several members of the Commission decided to resign. This was their personal decision. We all owe these individuals a debt of gratitude and appreciation for they were very much a part of the accomplishments of the commission in the past 18 months.

One of the most ominous treats to the future of General Aviation is the closing of small airports. This is a major concern of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Aviation Trades Association and National Business Aircraft Association and they all have major campaigns to help arrest this trend. Those of us who care about the aviation community and particularly about our airport should be very thankful we have a city government that is enthusiastic and dedicated to the future of the Cottonwood airport. Given the opportunity, let them know we appreciate their support.

An airport is a community and communities survive when people are involved. The Commission is your voice. What has your involvement been? How many Commission meetings have you attended?

Aleck Gradijan, Jr. is chairman of the Cottonwood Airport Commission.