Is The Airport Manager Your Friend?
Okay, so here's the situation. Your Chapter has been saving up its money and it finally looks like your Chapter can afford to build a clubhouse and hangar. The only thing that is standing in the way is coming up with a favorable lease that will get the land your Chapter needs at a low-low lease rate, say $1 a month.
Or, suppose your Chapter has been based at an airport for several years and the local developers have been building housing developments nearer and nearer to the airport and all of a sudden the neighbors are starting to write letters to the local newspaper suggesting the airport should be closed. The local politicians are being bombarded with suggestions that a shopping mall or an industrial park would be better use of the airport land.
Worse yet, imagine a new fixed base operator takes over for the old operator and they don't know anything about EAA or local EAA Chapters. The new operator starts telling the Airport Manager that your Chapter isn't doing anything to support the airport and the new operator would like to build a new hangar on the land your small clubhouse is currently on.
These situations may sound like nightmares; however, they can and all too often do come true. So what should your Chapter be doing? Don't wait until you need the Airport Manager to be a friend of your Chapter, start right now to be a friend to the Airport Manager. How does your Chapter do this? There are a million ways!
Most importantly - be a GOOD tenant. Your Chapter facilities should be the cleanest, best-maintained on the airport. Chapter activities should reflect the long-standing EAA tradition: well-organized, well-behaved and CLEAN. EAA pilots should never be viewed as rogues - fly-bys, show-boating, aggravating the neighbors with aircraft noise, or not being good citizens in the traffic pattern. EAA pilots should be recognized as the BEST BEHAVED group on the field. This is the fundamental starting point for all good relations with airport management.
There are always things at the Airport that your Chapter could do to help out. First, have a group of Chapter Members make a list of things they think your Chapter could do to help. Paint the wind -T, plant flowers at the airport entrance, paint a compass rose on the ramp, pick-up garbage along the road near the airport, build a new sign for the airport or fix up the old sign, etc., etc., etc. There are many odd jobs that your Chapter could offer to do. Take the list of ideas to the Airport Manager and see if your Chapter can start the ball rolling. Don't be surprised if the Airport Manager is skeptical. After all, when was the last time someone came to you and offered to lend a hand? Regardless, start by offering to help. The Airport Manager may want to start small to see how your Chapter does, but that's okay, you may need to start small in order to get enough Members in your Chapter involved.
Next, offer to host an Airport Open House. This is a big job, so make sure your Chapter has enough active Members to pull this one off. The last thing you want to do is to have the Open House turn into a disaster. But if your Chapter is strong enough, this idea will highlight the Chapter and the Airport, just make sure most of the spotlight ends up on the Airport Manager!
Another good idea is to put on a Young Eagle's rally. Flying Young Eagles accomplishes many things. First off, it is a great Chapter activity. Second, it is a great community outreach program. And third, again if you include the Airport Manager, it will give them an opportunity to show the community that the airport is a good community asset.
Okay, now for a little reality check…not all Airport Managers want to or are in the least bit interested in being a friend to your Chapter. In fact, there are some Airport Managers that would prefer to see their ramps full of corporate jets, commuter airlines, or even big airlines. Regardless of how hard your Chapter tries, some Airport Managers will refuse to let your Chapter get involved. The reality of this situation is that your Chapter cannot change the world. Not even the corner of the world where your Chapter is based. All your Chapter can do is try…and hope the Airport Manager will see the opportunity an active EAA Chapter offers to the airport.
If your Chapter has a success story about making the Airport Manager a friend of your Chapter, please share your Chapter's experience with the Chapter office so we can share this information with the entire Chapter Family.
KEEP THE SPIRIT!