The death of an airport is not a common occurrence. Usually, it’s the opposite — the birth of a new airport. A death is pending at St. Clair. The city of St. Clair has been trying to close its airport for years.
The cause of the death is dissatisfaction with a municipal facility that costs money and the city fathers see it as a negative cost-benefit service to the people. Rather, they believe, the land could be put to better use, such as for a shopping center, or perhaps an industrial site.
Large and many small cities see an airport as a distinct advantage in economic development, especially in enticing industry to locate there, or expand at the city.
Recreational aviation at one time was a main feature at many small town airports. Promoters of building an airport at one time in some small towns were pilots who were recreational flyers. That even was true in Washington but industrial development also entered into the picture. There’s no denying that recreational pilots were a motivating factor in the building of the St. Clair airport. Industrial development on a large scale did not follow. It did in Washington.
Another problem with the St. Clair airport is that it was located between two close cities, Washington and Sullivan, that found success with their airports. That factor lessened the need for an airport at St. Clair. At one time, with very good management, the St. Clair airport did OK with some reservations. Before Washington had an airport, we remember flying out of the St. Clair airport for the purpose of taking air photos. The airport was doing OK.
Located along Interstate 44, if the city can turn the site into a commercial or industrial park, the closing of the airport will be viewed as a positive decision.
There is no denying that the Washington and Sullivan airports have given both cities an economic lift. The Washington airport averages one business jet airplane a day. One day there were four jets there. With a decrease in recreational flying, the Washington facility is a business airport. It is vital to some industries amd businesses. Many of our industries are not locally owned anymore. Industrial executives and clients fly into Washington on a regular basis.
The Washington Regional Airport also has excellent management. The city fathers have supported expansion, and more is on the way. One reason for supporting expansion is the city has confidence in the management of the facility. Rarely is there a vacant hangar.
The closing of the St. Clair airport may mean more state/federal aid for the Sullivan and Washington airports.
With the Nov. 1, 2017, closing date fast approaching, there is a dose of sadness in the demise of that airport — any airport for that matter. We hope the site becomes fruitful for the city of St. Clair.