Airport Marketing

Why The Small GA Airport Is An Endangered Species

Endangered Airports

The friendly local airport is no longer as accessible as it used to be, nor is it at as secure in its surroundings.

Back in March, a small plane crash near Santa Monica Airport in California was widely reported by TV news stations and social media platforms across the country. What made the story so newsworthy was the aircraft was piloted by the actor Harrison Ford. It was reported he masterfully crash-landed his vintage WWII aircraft on a nearby golf course. The landing was masterful because Mr. Ford did it all by the book and inflicted no harm to anyone but himself and to his aircraft.

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling

This accident comes at a time when Santa Monica Airport has been under attack by factions within the neighboring community who want to close the airport due to fear of a plane falling out of the sky or skidding off a runway. The usual battle cry is the airport is too noisy and too dangerous to be in such proximity to so densely a populated area.

Truth is, Santa Monica Airport (and many like it) was built well before the land around it was developed. Santa Monica, originally Clover field, dates back to the 1920s and was for many years the home of the Douglas Aircraft Company, which produced thousands of aircraft, including one of the most popular commercial aircraft of all time, the DC-3.

Despite long-standing agreements between the city of Santa Monica and the FAA, the voters have put the future of the field in the hands of the City Council. As is the case in many municipalities, the airport is in a prime location and is valuable property that is ripe for development. With the decision left to politicians, the outcome will most likely be in the best interest of aviation, or the overall economic interest of the region. Considering the airport was once part of a thriving aerospace industry in Southern California and its contributions to the nation in both war and peacetime are incalculable, this is a sad state of affairs.

Note: Since the Harrison Ford accident, the Santa Monica City Council has begun limiting lease terms for certain airport tenants, some for as little as 3 years, others on a month-by-month basis. The City Council hasn’t banned jet traffic or closed the airport outright, but they are taking measures to control its use.

Can you keep it down please! We’re trying to put you out of business.

These days, however, you don’t have to close an airport to cause significant harm; you can also handcuff it with municipal ordinances – as is the case of Southampton Heliport on Long Island. Residents there have asked the municipality to restrict helicopter flights because of the continual low approaches at all hours of the day and night. When Southampton Heliport was built it was on the edge of the sleepy Long Island town. Now it is in the backyard of the rich and famous.

Note: The proposed noise restrictions at the South Hampton Heliport are the direct result of similar restrictions proposed for the airport in nearby East Hampton. Village officials at South Hampton are concerned  if East Hampton limits helicopter flights, more helicopter traffic would come to the South Hampton facility. 

Everyone to shut down the airport! The Terrorists are coming!

Many community airports across the country were built years before the age of terrorism fenced them in. Take Meigs field in downtown Chicago. It was closed right after 911 when Mayor Daley sent bulldozers in the cloak of darkness to wreck the runways and taxiways. Mayor Daley, who long wanted to close the airport, used the excuse of a possible terrorist threat that may take down the Sears Tower, to close the airport without warning or public debate.

In another time, before urban and suburban sprawl overtook the towns and villages that once harbored small community airports, the airports and the aircraft they cradled were new and exciting marvels of technology. Today, flying has become commonplace, aeronautics isn’t the mystery it once was, and the accommodating airport has become just another noisy, irritating neighbor.

The Way We Were.

Before we go on to explain how vital community airports are to the nation at large, and how every one we lose is a deficit to the U.S. economy, let’s talk about something else that’s being lost along the way – the sense of intimacy communities once had with their local airfields and with aviation.

At one time, there was a grand old lady of an airfield called Zahns airport. Zahns was located in North Amityville, Long Island and for a time in the late Fifties and early Sixties, it was one of the busiest General Aviation Airports on the East Coast with two flight schools, an Air National Guard station, and a Civil Air Patrol squadron.

Legions of soldiers returning from the Korean War flocked to Zahns to learn to fly using the GI Bill to finance their passion for aviation. They learned at Zahns in J3 cubs that were so worn and patched from so many flights, the students lovingly referred to them as “the yellow peril.” Still, the students were not deterred and the airfield thrived.

Zahns was built in 1936 and maintained its rustic nature right through the early sixties. It was so much an old fashioned airfield that it was chosen as the departure field in the film the Spirit of St. Louis because at the time the film was being made the field Lindberg original departed from, Roosevelt field, was well on its way to becoming a shopping center. Zahns with its gritty and sometimes muddy taxiways and graveling runways fit the moviemaker’s idea of aviation in the 1920s.

Fifty years or so ago, there was no airport fence at Zahns, but there was an airport log,  conveniently  placed a few hundred feet from the end of  the runway so kids could watch the constant aerial ballet in progress at Zahns airfield on  humid, breezy, summer days. For some dreamers, it was better than baseball.

If you were an airplane geek, you were in airplane heaven because no more than a mile away from Zahns was the then Republic Airfield where many storied World War II and Korean era aircraft were built and tested.

Zahns was torn down in 1980, victim of a bad 1970s economy and because it could not compete with Republic which had become a private airport with modern hangers and paved runways and, of course, a serious security fence.

The good news is Zahns lives on as an add on for X-plane simulators thanks largely to something called the Zahns project. If you think an airport cannot still be loved and cherished, go to and check out the site and the comments from the many aviators who learned to fly there.

Back to the Future…of local airports.

The last few decades have not been good for small GA airfields around the country. Many have closed due to lack of interest and the ability to run profitably. When an airport closes many other businesses also close such as flight schools, maintenance facilities FBOs and even restaurants; and, as mentioned earlier, many communities have grown to the point where they encroach on airport runway aprons. The situation is serious enough to have the attention of the FAA, AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), the NBAA (National Business Aircraft Association) and even the Wall Street Journal.

Here’s where U.S. aviation stands right now:

  • 19,000 airports, heliports, seaplane bases in total in U.S.
  • 5,200 public use airports
  • 3,330 are included in FAA National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIHS)
  • There are 378 primary airports plus another 2,952 landing facilities (2903 are airports, 10 heliports, 39 seaplane bases)
  • 121 of these smaller airfield facilities support limited air service and across the system serve from 2500 to 10,000 passengers a year

Why we need our local airports and aviation in general.

  • General Aviation supports nearly 1.3 million jobs across the United States
  • GA provides almost $150 billion in total economic activity annually
  • Smaller airports serve as bases for many vital community services including medical airlifts, firefighting, survey work, traffic reporting, weather reporting and parcel delivery
  • An estimated 65% of general aviation flights are conducted for business and public services that need transportation more flexible than the airlines

In AOPA’s Guide to Airport Noise and Compatible Land Use, airport owners and mangers can find lots of useful information that will assist them with zoning issues, noise compliance issues and more. All of this is of course helpful, but it still doesn’t address the underlying issue – the general public’s enmity and/or fear of General Aviation and their complete lack of understanding of its financial impact.

A threat from within.

Despite all the efforts to keep community airports open, there are other factors endangering them – and they’re actually coming from within the aviation community. The changes in the number of hours a pilot needs to qualify for a right seat on a commuter airline (now 1500) has caused a shortage in pilots at this entry-level position. The lack of pilots, also due in large part to lousy pay, has caused many small airlines to cancel service to many smaller airports.  The trickle down effect is dramatic.

Fewer or no flights mean less economic opportunity. Some communities have no access to airline air travel without these commuter airline services. The revenue stream not only cuts off to the airport, but it also negatively impacts the business economy of the region. If business cannot efficiently and economically travel by air to those regions, it will look elsewhere to seek customers and revenue.

What’s Next?

Nothing happens in the vacuum. The aviation community needs to make a concerted effort to communicate the value of General Aviation to the public. Many members of Congress understand the value of GA and the importance of community airports. Most CEOs and senior business executives understand it as well.

We need to grow awareness of the importance of our local airports for our communities throughout our country. Funding from government can only do so much. Active support needs to come at a grass roots level.

Maybe what we need even more is a new place for those kids who used to sit on the log at the local airport. We need a sanctuary where we can encourage our young and the young-at-heart to again look up in wonder at what is one of the greatest miracles of our time – flight!

Getting Your Aviation Business Ready for Primetime – Step 1

When to take your aviation to primetime.As a marketing consultant to the aviation industry, many times my clients realize they need to step up their marketing to a more professional level – in other words, they are ready for “primetime.”

Step 1: “Houston, we have a problem.

What prompts this realization? Usually, it’s the acknowledgment that the status-quo no longer works:

1. Their past promotional efforts has been somewhat effective, but they have a strong suspicion they can get a better return on money invested.

2. Realization that the usual referral, or word-of-mouth business is not going to sustain and grow their business in the future.

3. Opportunities lost to the competition that is doing a better job marketing themselves.

4. They require professional structure and guidance in their marketing efforts to take this burden off current management.

5. They realize that sales is not marketing – and the best sales people usually are not the best marketing people.

6. Their brand image is dated, sales message ineffective, and their current marketing does not represent their company they way that they would like.

The best solution is to hire an experienced VP of Marketing with aviation experience and a passion for this industry. The cost of this marketing pro, with an assistant, office space, benefits, etc. can easily exceed six figures. Usually, that expense is far beyond the reach of most mid-sized firms.

Another alternative is to hire a marketing consultant with aviation experience. (I happen to know an excellent one, if, by chance, you need a referral!)

Getting Your Aviation Business Ready for Primetime: Step 3

A key ingredient in growing your aviatin business is developing a strategic marketing plan.

A key ingredient in growing your aviation business is developing a strategic marketing plan.

Step 3, Do you have a plan, Stan?

Developing a strategic marketing plan for your aviation business is one of the most important steps a company takes to reach business goals and attain long-term growth and success, yet it is many times ignored.

An effective marketing plan supports a company’s overall business goals and objectives, with detailed marketing strategies and tactics answering the essential questions of Who? Why? What? Where? When? How? and How Much?

Who? Who is the “situation analysis” of your specific marketplace, including company background, products and/or services and the company’s mission. This also identifies key prospects by distinct market segments (Who are they? How many? Where are they located? What are their needs and values? What are their buying motives? etc.) Who also addresses marketplace issues such as: Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your company? What trends, issues and opportunities exist in the marketplace, and what strategic options are available in which to benefit from them.

Why? Why focuses on your company’s specific goals and objectives, and what role marketing will play in achieving them. The best goals are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, with a Timeline for achieving them.)

What? What is the “game plan” through which marketing objectives are achieved. This determines the best marketing strategies to be used. The key aspect here is company positioning: the key benefit or promise your firm delivers; how your company is currently perceived by customers, and how it should be perceived; and how your company differentiates itself from competitors. It also forms the basis of the creative sales message that will be the foundation of your marketing.

When? When is the marketing timeline: the chronology and deadlines for meeting each task, by what date, and by whom.

How? How is the actual implementation or action plan. It specifies which marketing tools, tactics and media to use, along with timing and weight. This is where most creative work is done: advertising created, news releases distributed, brochures developed, trade shows attended, digital media created, etc.

How Much? How much refers to the budget that is necessary to fully implement your market program, and how to best allocate funds for each tactic.

10 Benefits of a strategic marketing plan:

1. Encourages a thorough review of all factors that impact success for your business, and brings to light

2. opportunities and pitfalls often overlooked by “winging it.”

3. Provides a powerful direction and long-range view to minimize impulsive and costly decisions.

4. Stimulates optimum use of marketing budget and re­sources.

5. Provides an accurate market-driven foundation on which to build operating plans.

6. Builds consensus and support with internal staff and departments.

7. Fosters coordination and consolidation of efforts; maximizes efficiency and effectiveness.

8. Empowers team members to take action appropriate and consistent with overall company goals.

9. Facilitates an objective evaluation of past actions and results; fosters increased utilization of strengths, avoids repetition of mistakes, and indicates where improvement is necessary.

10. Clearly delineates goals, facilitates measurement, course corrections when necessary, and recognition of superior performance.

Leveraging Public Relations

How to Make the Most of Your Public Relations

Public Relations Can Have a Ripple Effect on Your Marketing

Leverage Your Press Coverage Through Other Marketing Tactics

You Received Some Great PR, Now What?

Image savvy business owners work very hard and sometimes pay a lot of money to get positive press in the aviation industry. However, after you receive a great story in the media, look for ways to leverage the coverage to maximize its benefit.

In addition to flying, I love to sail and was once featured in the Profits & Passions section of the Westchester County Business Journal. It was a great opportunity to build awareness of my business through my hobby – but I didn’t let it stop there.

Start Spreading The News

I added a synopsis of the article to my email newsletter and sent it to everyone in my email database: friends, colleagues, clients, vendors, even though directly removed from the aviation industry I serve.

You would be amazed at the conversations it sparked, even among my pilot friends, and the connections that ensued. That’s just one way to leverage your press. Here are some other ideas to get the most out of your PR coverage:

  1. Create a sell-sheet to mail to your prospects and customers.
  2. Put a copy of your press coverage and any photos on your website.
  3. Refer to the story in your blogs and on social media sites. Put links to the story on your website.
  4. Create a Media & Press section in your website. Include links to newspapers, TV, or radio stations in your market or industry. Include photographs, videos and podcasts as well.

Recycle and Refresh!

Don’t be afraid to recycle your press coverage; the more your name is out there, the more apt it is to be fresh in the minds of prospective clients, vendors, and future employees.

The bottom line is, don’t let the public relations end with the story. Use it again and again in any number of ways to get the word out on your business, product, service or event. Click here to see PDF of Profits & Passion article.

Innovation – the great engine of prosperity

Deirdre N. McCloskey, Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois and author of Bourgeois Dignity.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, author of Bourgeois Dignity.

In these tough economic times there has been much discussion of how to get the economy moving again: TARP, QE2, Keynesian Economics versus Supply Side Economics. Historically, however, Government is not what drives economic growth – innovation driven by intrepid entrepreneurship is the real engine.

National Review columnist Rich Lowry recently wrote an excellent article on this subject based on the book Bourgeois Dignity by Deirdre N. McCloskey, in which, she writes,

“In 1800 the average human consumed and expected her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to go on consuming a mere $3 a day. With their $3 a day the average denizen of the earth got a few pounds of potatoes, a little milk, an occasional scrap of meat.” The only people who enjoy more that a $3 a day existences were the few Lords and Earls of nobility, or the Bishops and Cardinals of the church – it had been this way for all of recorded history – in short, “all the world was Bangladesh.”

Literacy and life expectancy are rising – liberty is spreading and tyranny is retreating

National Review columnist Rich Lowry expands on this excellent observation. “Then something happened that changed everything and even though the world has more than 6.5 billion more people than it did two centuries ago, starvation worldwide is at an all-time low and falling – literacy and life expectancy are at all-time highs, and rising – liberty is spreading and tyranny is retreating.

How did this happen? According to author Deidre McCloskey and expounded by Lowry, it wasn’t foreign trade (too small), it wasn’t imperialism (it didn’t enrich the ruled countries), it wasn’t the establishment of property rights (they had existed before), and it wasn’t the Protestant work ethic (hard work wasn’t new).

It was simply a new attitude toward wealth and its creation. McCloskey calls it the “Bourgeois Revaluation.” Her basic argument is that the world developed a new respect for the bourgeoisie – the creators of wealth. It afforded the shopkeeper the dignity that he had always been denied because he wasn’t a lord, a military officer, or a priest.

It began roughly 200 years ago in Holland and Britain. Combining this new dignity with liberty led to the amazing run-up in the world’s wealth over the last two centuries in contrast to what had been relative stasis throughout the rest of human history.

Innovation is the driver of wealth – the ceaseless search for the new, the better, the cheaper.

In McCloskey’s view, many attribute this success to “capitalism,” but she argues the word is insufficient, because the mere accumulation of capital is not enough to bring about prosperity. Many kings and queens accumulated tremendous wealth, but there was no rising prosperity for their subjects, and no economic miracle ensued.

It’s innovation that’s the driver of wealth, entrepreneurial “alertness,” the ceaseless search for the new, the better, the cheaper.

While our nation struggles with 9.8 percent unemployment and the Congress and President posture to special interests that pursue anti-innovation trade and regulatory policies to protect the status-quo, Lowry and McCloskey reason that the basic recipe for economic recovery is simple, if not necessarily easy:

Celebrate, reward, and create the conditions for entrepreneurial innovation.