By editorial board • 

Airport never seems to catch any attention

“The city’s most unheralded asset.”

“A crucial need for a tourist-oriented economy.”

“(It’s) poised to take off. ... It’s time to start those engines.”

“The community’s most valuable economic asset.”

Year after year, we find our editorial board repeating certain opinions that seem to fall on deaf ears. But the risk of redundancy won’t stop us from repeating a belief we feel passionate about.

One such issue, as described above in quotes from editorials past, is the largely untapped potential of the McMinnville Municipal Airport. 

It’s disappointing to learn — as reported elsewhere in today’s edition of the News-Register — that the current state of affairs at the airport is heading in a direction unfavorable to growth and celebration. Two separate issues at the airport have created more complaints than flights.

First, smaller planes can no longer refuel there because the on-site tank became unusable due to lack of inspection and maintenance over the years. Second, an issue with trees intruding into the landing path for one runway has shut down the airport’s instrument landing system. That results in jets seeking another airport when visibility is poor, which it often is this time of year.

The issues have soured the early dealings between the city, owner of the airport, and Potcake Aviation, manager at the airport and operator of the airport’s fixed-base facility.

The city is paying Potcake $1,300 a month for its part-time airport management contribution. The rest of its revenue comes from services and supplies it provides the aviation community.

Earlier this year, Potcake took over a lease contract from Konect Aviation, the airport’s former manager and FBO operator, which succumbed in part to delays in completing a runway overhaul project.

The city has done a good job of upgrading the main infrastructure, which features newly repaved main and secondary runways, with state and federal grant funds. It is adamant the airport operate on a self-sufficient basis, without benefit of city general fund contributions.

That creates a Catch-22 situation, as it will take investment in facilities, including replacement of an outdated and dilapidated fixed-base facility, for the airport to reach its potential.

Potcakes is willing to shoulder some of that burden. In fact, it has a million dollar hangar currently under construction.

Understandably, it becomes alarmed when most of its tenants are no longer able to fuel up. It sees the city failing to hold up its end of the bargain.

It’s not that the city has totally ignored the airport, but it has never made the airport a priority, either.

Granted, the council and managers have many assets to consider in divvying up attention and dollars. More focus on the airport might come at the expense of something else. But given the potential return on investment, we continue to believe the airport deserves serious consideration of a top priority. 

“There should be a dozen of these out here,” said Manager Chris Norville, looking up at the massive hangar Potcake is building. And we have to agree.
 
 

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