Unraveling The Mystery Of Hampton Roads’ Love Affair With Jet Noise

The Hidden Benefits Of Airports To Local Economies

airport-economic-impact-in-hampton-roadsTo many, the idea of living in a community that is close to the airport engenders one reaction: how do you stand all that noise? The people near Hampton Roads will tell you they’re used to that question, because love it or hate it, Hampton Roads is known for jet noise because of the heavy concentration of military bases in the area. The region is also home a number of commercial airports that contribute to the traffic overhead. And while you may have considered the noise the air traffic generates, what you may not realize is the importance of airports to the social and economic growth of surrounding communities. In fact, those who live in and around communities with regional airports may be considered crazy - crazy like a fox!

When calculating the economic impact of local airports, there are three categories to take under consideration:

  • Direct Impact - The employment, payroll, and local expenditures of all activity at the airport. Think passenger airlines, concessions, cargo airlines, fixed base operators, rental car agencies, and other airport-supported businesses.

  • Indirect Impact - The expenditures made by airport users in the surrounding towns.

  • Induced Impact - The employment, payroll, and local revenues resulting from the businesses that operate as a result of the airport’s presence. Think hotels, restaurants, gas stations, entertainment, pharmacies and other establishments that cater to the needs of travelers.

Collectively, the impacts of even the smallest airports to local economies are astounding.

Consider Currituck County Regional Airport (ONX) in northeast coastal North Carolina. ONX operates one 5,500 foot runway and services a wide array of business, leisure and general aviation aircraft. The North Carolina DOT recently estimated the total economic impact of ONX to the surrounding communities was more than $10 million.

In 2012 the state of North Carolina’s 72 public-use airports in the state accounted for 108,850 jobs, $4.06 billion in payroll and $26 billion in statewide economic impact in 2012. This is an 18.8% increase in jobs and an additional $14.6 billion in annual economic impact since the NC DOT conducted their last aviation impact study in 2006.

There are 5,000 public-use regional airports across the country with access to the national air transportation system. These airports provide convenient, efficient options for business and leisure travelers to reach their destinations and contribute to local economies.

There is also a concerted effort in the industry to reduce noise from aircraft in local airport communities. Many airports across the country adhere to noise reduction policies like flight scheduling, which involve night curfews and preferential runway use. Local airports also typically serve smaller, modern aircraft that are built with quieter engines. Industry wide, aircraft built today are 75% quieter than those manufactured 50 years ago.

In addition to the significant economic impact airports bring to the region, the social impact is also important. Air medical services, humanitarian aid, forest fire fighting aircraft can all be staged at local airports, making the surrounding communities safer and involved in disasters around the world.

Regional airports like ONX in Currituck County provide good jobs and resources into the local economy that cannot be overlooked. They are key factors for businesses seeking to relocate, and they provide local residents with mobility in times of emergency or when they seek a vacation getaway.

So the next time you visit with a resident of Hampton Roads, the question is not how they deal with airport noise. The real question is, what would they do without it?


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