Proposed Middlebury Airport project very sensible
I recently read with interest some of the “public” comments regarding proposed Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) safety improvements at Middlebury State Airport (“Neighbors pan airport expansion proposal,” Addison Independent, Monday, May 25, 2015).
First, let me point out that I am not currently a pilot, though I would like to be. Given some time and a little money, maybe I will be. I should also point out that, while I did not attend the most recent informational meeting that was held, over the years I have attended many meetings held by both the state and the airport.
I wonder what some area residents feel “private sector” or “private individuals” really means. With regard to General Aviation (GA), the FAA grants a “private pilot’s license” to those individuals who meet certain training levels and who are not flying aircraft for hire.
The Middlebury State Airport is a public use airport. That means any anyone who flies an airplane can use the field. Anyone who wishes to learn to fly, or who wants to buy or owns an airplane and wants to land or take off from Middlebury Airport may use it.
Like automobiles, anyone can learn to fly or buy an airplane. Given a little time and money to get your private pilot’s license, you could possibly be in the air yourself for under $5,000 and 40-plus hours of flight instruction time. While brand new airplanes can bring hefty price tags, perfectly good used aircraft can be purchased for around $20,000. So, yes, the general public can and does use Middlebury State Airport.
Private pilots are not millionaires. They have just used their spare and hobby money a little differently. They may have the newest model car or may not have a camp or boat on a lake, but they do have a private pilot’s license and access to an airplane, either rented or owned.
I do not own a boat, but I have no problem with the state AOT building, improving, maintaining boating access on Vermont lakes and ponds. Why should it be any different for airplanes?
The AOT is in charge of all Vermont state airports, just like the state highways. The AOT has a responsibility to maintain them, like the highways, and to keep them safe for the general public.
The same as state highway funding, funding for state airport improvements done by the state AOT fall under federal/state funding formulas, where the federal government kicks in 90 percent of funding when matched by 10 percent funding by the state. This is because oftentimes these projects are used by the general public, regardless of what state they live in.
As was pointed out by Guy Rouelle, from AOT, the current list of improvements for Middlebury State Airport are all safety related. I tried to explain this in a letter I sent the paper several months ago. The state AOT must follow certain FAA guidelines and rules for certain improvements to obtain state and federal funding.
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