The Economic Benefits of Business Aviation, Part II
In 2016, the City of Chandler, Arizona, contracted with the planning firm Kimley-Horn and Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business to perform an economic development analysis on its airport. The idea, born in a City Council planning retreat, was to determine the impact of Chandler Municipal Airport on city coffers and the overall business development in the thriving Southwest suburb of Phoenix.
Such forward thinking has paid off. Through revenue generators like lodging, retail, business suppliers, fuel sales and fixed-based operations, it was determined that the 50-plus-year-old airport brought an annual impact of $140 million in revenue and payroll to the city and state. The airport also anchors one of Chandler’s – and the region’s – most dynamic employment corridors, the 9-square-mile Chandler Airpark. In fact, the airport itself directly and indirectly supports nearly 800 jobs (331 of those on airport).  The study also determined that the airport’s draw was wider than once thought, with aircraft visiting from across the region, but also strong draws from California, Nevada and Utah.
An Economic Game Plan
While the dollars lag to comparable airports in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, it gave the City leaders a clear game plan: This is an asset that can only increase in value. So, as we discuss the future of aviation, we cannot ignore the economic engines these facilities have on cities and states. Of course, the private sector cannot rely on government alone – and don’t get me started on over-regulation of my chosen industry. We are seeing strong growth in business aviation, as I mentioned in my last piece. Smart and strategic S&P 500 companies utilizing business aviation outperform the competition by 70 percent. We must continue to invest and grow.
Private ownership, fractional ownership and charter services maintain solid outlooks. So, looking forward, the next big trend will be a new level of service and maintenance to keep pace with the number of jet aircraft. Like WingSpan Corporation’s through-the-fence aviation center under development at Chandler Municipal Airport, we are going to see a growing interest in facilities that cater to these multi-million-dollar aircraft and increasingly sophisticated crews. WingSpan’s idea for Class-A hangars and workspace is not new, it brings a unique passion toward aviation service and making the entire experience a more human one. Plan to see many more of these types of developments from WingSpan and others moving forward.
Spending time in Arizona the past few years, it’s been hard not to notice the influx of autonomous vehicles on the road. Uber, Waymo, General Motors, Intel and Local Motors all have a strong presence in the market, doing research and development. Arizona is a very progressive state when it comes to accepting new technology – and it’s been no different in this arena. It is entirely logical that this technology continues to develop for air travel.
Impact of eVTOL
Last month in Mesa, Arizona, the 6th Annual Electric and Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) Symposium continued to explore the future of electric and hybrid-electric propulsion aviation and how we fly. From safety, to regulations, to more advanced flight technology, more than 100 leaders from all corners of the industry were present. And, autonomous flight was in the discussions, as companies like Tesla and Uber begin to explore this new frontier. eVTOL representatives estimate the industry to become a $500 billion to $2 trillion force within the next three decades. You can learn more about future events at vtol.org/events.
The Future of Business Aviation
This all leads to an industry that remains robust and healthy, yet has work to do. While a continued strategic adoption of business aviation just makes good sense, we must also lobby in favor of better regulation, improved safety and meeting the growth of future demands.
That means the recruitment and training of qualified pilots. Pilots that are capable to fly today’s aircraft, but also able to handle emerging technologies in flight.
It means the private sector must continue to work hand-in-hand with local, state and federal government to ensure fair regulation, continued safety, and the ongoing maintenance and development of airport infrastructure.
And it means all aspects of business aviation continue to be embraced. Not just through sales and leases and charters, but in service, maintenance and the experience that has brought us to where we are today.