The Need for Airport Advocacy

Until the whole sad affair with the Municipal Management District (MMD) at Pearland Regional Airport occurred (Prowl around for the full story), I had thought  my little airport was stable and okay and I had no reason for concern about its continued operation.  I now know differently.  Even though the airport has been in its present location for about 70 years, there is a group of local homeowners who would like to see it curtailed or shutdown.  They effectively used half-truths and emotional rants to shut down the effort to turn KLVJ into a public airport without any real thought about what that impact would be.  The situation was not helped by the airport owners, who portrayed a vision of Pearland’s airport becoming a jetport, playing directly into the homeowners’ fears about noise and pollution and opening the door to confusion.  That led to both misinformation and emotional rhetoric that was fanned by a few homeowners into flames that blew the whole situation out of proportion.  The MMD could actually have been an overall win-win for almost everyone, but there was no way that was going to even be presented.  The homeowners were too busy shouting down their competition and dominating the discussion to allow anything but their own misperceptions be heard.  It remains to be seen whether, in doing so, they actually cut their own throats and may have set up exactly the situation they do not want.

While a website associated with the homeowners stated they did not want to shut down the airport, such sentiment was not heard at a local meeting at a nearby restaurant and that was held to discuss the MMD.  In fact, many homeowners cheered when they talked about the airport “becoming their golf-course”. Such attitudes colored the whole affair.

For now, they have what they wanted.  Pearland Regional Airport is in private hands.  I have some information that says the next step in its future may be its sale to a foreign investor who wants an airport he can put aircraft manufacturing on.  That may or may not be true.  If it is, it will introduce a very different dynamic into the whole situation, and the homeowners will find themselves with no choice but to accept what happens.  Just like they have property rights associated with their homes, so will the new owner of KLVJ.

Regardless of anything else, I’d like to see Pearland Regional Airport remain open.  I believe its best use is as a piston-aircraft and helicopter populated general aviation reliever airport.  Moreover, whether it remains that way or transitions into a jetport, there will be a need for the pilots, tenants, and property owners using the airport to be able to not only stay aware of what is happening but have some means of influencing it.   There is a strong need for advocacy for the airport no matter where its future lies.  The MMD effort failed largely because the users were left out of the process until it was too late for them to fairly evaluate what it meant,  much less organize in a strong enough way to combat the anti-airport people’s propaganda.

I know there are some folks who think that if they do nothing, Pearland Regional will remain as it is.  I beg to differ.  At some point, the current airport owners will have to do something with the property if it remains unprofitable.  (The irony of losing the MMD is that the airport would have become profitable almost immediately under that structure, or so I’ve been told.)   To turn it into a profitable venture, there will probably be a continued push to bring in more jet aircraft to boost fuel revenues.  In other words, the airport more than likely will drive in the exact direction the homeowners feared.

If the airport is sold to a private investor, the impact of that is impossible to predict.  We’ll all have to ride along to see what direction the airport goes.  But one thing is clear. There are tidal forces silently at work that would like to close the airport.  The most effective hedge against that is for us airport users to work together to let the community in on what really happens out here and make sure we help them understand the value to them of what we do. Like it or not, we either stand up for our right to fly or lose it; there are people out there who will take it from us for their own selfish reasons.

Whether we allow that or not is up to us.