Forms for Funding Airports

Thoughts on FAA Form 1800-31.

On Saturday, I received FAA form 1800-31 in the mail. Titled “Airport Activity Survey (by Selected Air Carriers),” it’s headed up with the following description as part of its Paperwork Reduction Act notice:

Submission of this form is voluntary. The purpose of this collection is to capture passenger enplanement data to be used to allocate Federal funds to eligble airports. The public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 1 hour and 30 minutes per response.

The form requests me to enter the names, states, airports, and airport identifiers for all airports where I picked up passengers for on demand commercial operations. For each airport listed, I need to provide a count of the passengers I picked up.

To gather this information, I’ll need to go through my aircraft logs for 2007 and look at each flight conducted. If it was a revenue flight, I need to note where I picked up the passengers and how many passengers I picked up. I then need to tally these for each airport and summarize it on the form. Ninety minutes sounds about right for this chore.

Although this task is voluntary — frankly, I don’t think I bothered last year — I’m looking forward to doing it this year. It might be the bean counter in me — once an accountant, always an accountant. But there are two good reasons why it interests me more this year:

  • A line-by-line review of my log books helps me to remember individual flights. I’m in the process of drawing together material for a book about my flight experiences and I’m sure I’ll be reminded of a few flights that are interesting enough to write about.
  • I’m curious to learn which airports I did the most business at last year. I’m pretty damn sure it wasn’t Wickenburg. Hell, I picked up more passengers in Buckeye in one day than I did during a whole year at Wickenburg.

Not Wickenburg? you may ask. How can that be? Aren’t you based there?

Yes, I’m based at Wickenburg. But sadly, very little of my business originates here. The vast majority of my revenue comes from flights out of Deer Valley, Scottsdale, and Sky Harbor, with the big revenue charters originating in places like Page and Yuma. Try as I might to market my services here in Wickenburg, the population simply isn’t interested. I’m probably too costly for most of the fixed income folks who live here, while the folks who don’t worry about money would prefer a pickup from a turbine helicopter based in Scottsdale. (How’s that for ironic?)

I’ve actually gotten to the point where I don’t bother marketing much in Wickenburg anymore. Sure, my original tri-fold brochure is still out there. Why not? I have about 10,000 copies of it left. It emphasized my Wickenburg tours and, when I realized that my market was in the Phoenix area, I had it redesigned to emphasize tours from there. The leftover copies of the original are in my hangar, slowly making their way out into brochure racks around town.

And this year, I pulled the plug on my local Yellow Pages ad.

I’m even in the process of turning off my local phone number, preferring my cell phone for all communications with current and future clients.

Hermosa RanchIt’s odd, in a way. I’m the only aircraft charter operator based in Wickenburg. The town has a very nice little airport that recently got a bunch of funding from the Federal Government that added 1000 feet to its runway. But when finally given the opportunity to set up an office on airport property, I turned it down. I, like many other business owners (or potential business owners) here, have learned that dealing with the Town can be a nightmare of bullshit politics conducted by men who get their kicks controlling this insignificant corner of the world. They have no regard for the future of the airport — a fact they’ve made clear by allowing housing on three of the airport’s four sides, including less than 4000 feet from the approach end of Runway 23. Why would anyone in their right mind put up a building or hangar or anything else at an airport that’s likely to be closed in 10 or 15 years due to residential encroachment and the accompanying complaints? Or, for that matter, sign a land lease agreement that can be cancelled at any time on the whim of the Mayor or a Council member?

So my business languishing, as far as Wickenburg is concerned, but doing quite well everywhere else. And that’s unfortunate for Wickenburg. Not only is the Town losing out on sales tax revenue generated by my scenic tours, but FAA Form 1800-31 will not indicate Wickenburg as one of my major operating airports.

And if the only charter operator based in Wickenburg has more passenger operations at other airports, then how many passenger operations will be recorded for Wickenburg’s final tally? And how will that affect future airport funding?

I’m learning not to care.

7 thoughts on “Forms for Funding Airports

  1. It greatly saddens me to have read the last line of your article. I think I know you well enough to know that you are a compassionate person who truly cares about things around you, but you have faced the reality of living here in Wickenburg- that life revolves around the almighty dollar and that it is a select few who will ruin it for the rest of us here in the years to come. Your charter service is a valuable asset to the community, but because you won’t fall lockstep in line with what the power hungry want you to do, you are treated like an outsider. How sad! If I were a visitor to Wickenburg who really enjoyed the greater southwest, a charter flight to see the local area would be at the top of the must-do list of things to do around here. But, if you are not a butt-kissing favorite of the local Chamber of Commerce, your chances of being a successful business here are slim. What a shame!

    Every obseervation you made about the local politics around here is dead-on. It reinforces the fact that everything revolves around people who live by the attitude of what’s in it for me.

  2. “It reinforces the fact that everything revolves around people who live by the attitude of what’s in it for me.”

    Sadly, Jim, I’m afraid that attitude prevails across most time zones and political parties.

  3. Daryl, just because an attitude prevails doesn’t mean it’s right.

    There was a time when people actually cared more about their neighborhoods and communities than what they could suck from them. I thought that time still existed in small towns. Perhaps it does, but, with a few exceptions, that time is long past in Wickenburg.

  4. Actually Jim, I think that Maria still cares more than she wants to let on in public. Maria was at a recent commission meeting, trying to get a clarification regarding the Wickenburg airport. I was there too, and am still amazed at the lack of grasp of the potential liability to the town by some at the meeting.

    Got residential zoned land close to the airport and under the approaches? Go ahead and build! We’ll worry about liability after a too close encounter between house and airplane.

  5. To bad the town fathers are more concerned about themselfs and their powerbase than what is best for the town.

    Their loss.

  6. Maria,

    I was in no way advocating the rampant greed and insecurity rampant in society.

    Merely commiserating with Jim’s post and expanding on it.

    I’m curious as to why you interpreted my short post the way you did.

    A tip for front-drive vehicle in the snow: oftimes you can get better performance backing up hills and over obstacles.

    Have a great trip!

What do you think?