CYR: Congress should maintain oversight of air traffic control
The Greeley-Weld County Airport plays an important role in our local community. Local doctors fly from our airport to eastern Colorado, southern Nebraska and western Kansas to provide medical services to these rural communities. Three days a week, cardiologists and other specialists use small aircraft travel to provide services in the rural communities where they are needed, which would otherwise be lacking. Without these small aircraft, patients would be forced to drive hours to see a specialist.
What’s more, our airport is a lifeline for patients in these rural areas who need critical medical treatment that is not provided in their local communities. With a population base of about 450,000 people within 35 miles, Northern Colorado Medical Center offers a wide range of services and specialty practices that are not available in outlying areas. It has an award-winning cardiac program, a highly-rated cancer institute and serves as a level II trauma center. Our airport is also used for a number of med flight transports, with aerial ambulance services flying out to car crashes and other accidents to provide lifesaving services on an emergency basis. (We can add in firefighting, law enforcement, Department of Corrections, etc.,)
Beyond saving lives, our airport also serves agricultural aerial applicators. During peak season, these aircraft can be seen making pass after pass over our farmland, overseeing and treating our crops. In addition, companies like JBS Swift & Company, the largest employer in town, as well as Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and Norfolk Iron & Metal, rely on the airport to transport personnel, visit job sites and increase efficiency.
All of these services fall under the umbrella of general aviation and, as you can see, they play a very important role in the fabric of our society. In fact, across Colorado, general aviation airports account for $2.4 billion in economic activity each year and aviation in the state supports more than 256,000 jobs. This is the best part about our American aviation system; it is the most diverse system in the world. We have many different types of airports, aircraft and our system serves communities of all sizes, not just our largest cities.
That’s why it defies reason to me why we would try to follow countries that don’t have this type of diversity and privatize our air traffic control system in favor of a system that really only caters to the biggest airlines, airports and communities.
Under this type of system, oversight over our national air traffic control system would be dominated by private interests, which would be more interested in concentrating resources into areas where it benefits them. The ripple effect would be felt almost immediately and would be devastating to businesses and all the services that depend on our airport and our system as a whole.
As it stands now, our airspace operates for the sake of all Americans — we should keep it that way.
Gary Cyr is the airport manager for the Greeley-Weld County Airport.