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"Airport as 'front door' to the city"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Airport 'front door' to the city
By Larry Williams 
The Murfreesboro (TN) Daily News Journal

What does the Murfreesboro Airport mean to you? There is often low awareness
of what a local general aviation airport such as the Murfreesboro Municipal
Airport means to non-aviators. It creates jobs and income, saves lives,
helps enforce the laws of the land and is a terminal destination for
passengers, freight and potential business investments. Your airport can be
considered one of Murfreesboro's principal resources because what the
airport does best is serve people who don't fly. It can be a key factor in
the decision of businesses (who provide valuable local employment) to locate
in an area. An airport is a vital part of the local economy. It is the first
impression of the city as a prospective industry official lands a private
aircraft and enters the terminal building, which becomes the front door to
the city.

I first visited the Murfreesboro airport one week after my graduation from
Murfreesboro Central High School in June 1964 to inquire about taking flying
lessons. After my first flight, I was hooked on aviation and 10 months later
I was an 18-year-old FAA-licensed flight instructor beginning an aviation
career teaching other 18-year-old kids how to fly. I am one of thousands of
kids who got their start in aviation at the Murfreesboro airport. My career
included towing gliders, fight instructing, corporate pilot, charter pilot,
airline captain, aviation university faculty and 34 years as an FAA aviation
safety inspector. As an FAA inspector I was fortunate to cross paths with
hundreds of aviation professionals in my travels worldwide who began their
aviation careers in Murfreesboro.

Since my retirement from the FAA in 2010, I work as a consultant with
foreign civil aviation authorities, airlines and other aviation industries
globally. I was reminded of the importance of general aviation airports, and
especially the Murfreesboro airport, when I was in Nigeria last week
conducting a safety audit of Nigeria's largest airline (the only Nigerian
Airline that flies to the United States). My contact at the airline was the
vice president of flight operations, Ado Sansui. When Ado looked at my
business card he said, "Murfreesboro! I love Murfreesboro! That's where I
learned to fly 20 years ago." He had fond memories of Murfreesboro and MTSU
and credited his success to the training he received here. He proudly showed
me his logbook with hundreds of entries beginning with "MBT," the identifier
for Murfreesboro.

The Tennessee Division of Aeronautics awarded the airport with "Most
Improved Airport of the Year" Award in 2002. Airport Manager Chad Gehrke was
named as the "Airport Manager of the Year" in 2006. It has received a "Front
Door" Award from the Tennessee Division of Aeronautics and Tennessee
Department of Economic and Community Development every year since 1995. The
"Front Door" Award recognizes airports that meet all of the requirements for
certification, maintain safe operations, maintain the grounds in good
condition, and serve as good representatives of their community and of
Tennessee to businesses that travel in and out of the city's "front door" at
the airport. The Murfreesboro airport is self-supporting and that does not
use any local taxpayer dollars.

I encourage everyone to visit your airport. It's a friendly place. You can
park free just a few steps from the front door. You will not have to produce
a valid government picture identification, take your shoes off, get X-rayed
or submit to a pat down. You might even consider the EAA's brunch on the
second Saturday every month. Where else can you get a freshly grilled
hamburger, chips, cookie and cold soda for $5 while watching airplanes take
off and land?

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