There are actually two county airports, but I am writing about the one I know best, the Jamestown airport known as JHW.
There has been some discussion recently that spending more money on it, is a waste of money. My point is that JHW is essential infrastructure for central and southern Chautauqua County.
My conflict of interest is that, though not currently flying, I am a pilot. I was trained at this airport in 1957 and 1958 when it was owned by the City of Jamestown. I have landed on its runways innumerable times, I know it well. It is beautifully situated on top of a hill with no significant obstructions on an instrument approach. It has been well- maintained and is large enough for small business jet use.
On the other hand, I believe that its day of being a scheduled airline destination may be over. To save $50 or $100 people may well drive to Buffalo or Erie for a flight. Out of JHW, there are not a lot of airports to fly to which can connect you to your final destination. Even if you can get to a place like Pittsburgh, you may still have another stop after that before you can get to where want to end up.
In addition, post 9/11, there is the cost of having to have security personnel for every flight out of Jamestown. The result, despite the advantage of free car parking, is that the days of scheduled commercial flights into and out of JHW have become unprofitable. The only way they have been happening at all is through a subsidized federal government program and, even that, has become problematic.
This does not mean though that the airport is unimportant. If you are a business person either operating or considering coming into the Jamestown area–a viable, good airport with a dependable instrument landing system is important.
Just ask Cummins. They use JHW all summer. The only reason that they don’t use it in the winter time is because the runways are not quite long enough to provide the necessary braking action, if there is snow on the runway, for their large airplane. (To extend the runway length at JHW would cost a lot of money.) In the winter, the Cummins plane lands in Erie.
The present Fixed Base Operator (FBO,) has given notice that, under current terms, they will not be able to tend and refuel airplanes at JHW starting next January. I hope that something can be worked out to keep an FBO at the airport. The county should not underestimate the importance of the airport to our general aviation and business community. This kind of service is hard to quantify, but it will be missed if it is discontinued.
With GPS automated approaches and other technological advances, Instrument flight into and out of Jamestown will continue to be excellent. And, the airport itself is needed to insure we have a connection to an aviation future. Airplanes aren’t going to go away.
If you combine that with the reality that, under federal law, about 90 percent of most capital improvements at the airport are paid for by Washington–it argues convincingly for keeping JHW a viable part of our infrastructure.
Times change, but the need for a good, dependable community airport is still with us.
We need to keep JHW going!
Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.