The collapse of GA aviation at two airports: A warning for the industry?

General Aviation News and Ron of the House of Rapp blog have picked up a story from the Long Beach Business Journal about the collapse of general aviation at the Long Beach Airport (LGB) in California, once the busiest general aviation airport in the world but that activity has declined 24% in the first six months of the year and a staggering 47% over the past five years. Meanwhile, Ron (who is based in Southern California) pointed out a second article about the once busy nearby Van Nuys Airport which had 607,000 takeoffs and landings in 1999 but by 2010, that figure had declined to 339,000 — the lowest traffic count since 1963.

One obvious reason for these declines is the poor economy but the second article about the decline of the Van Nuys Airport also pointed out that:

Airplane fuel sales, whose city fees were nearly tripled two years ago, have fallen by 30 percent.

And:

“My biggest beef is: No one can make a decision or do anything,” said Mike Konle, an entertainment industry businessman who owns a twin-engine Cessna and is a member of an airport hangar association, who has flown out of Van Nuys Airport since 1975. “No one’s running it like a business.

“We’re overtaxed. Rents are too high. We’re all paying (to support) the few people that are left.”

Obviously there are more factors at play here but whatever the root causes, the decline of these airports means less business for surrounding hotels, bars, restaurants and airport service facilities.

Moreover, Ron also pointed out that:

Meanwhile, in the past two years, Superior Air Parts, Cirrus Aircraft, Glasair Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft, and other U.S. aviation assets have been sold to China. The Chinese are building general aviation airports as fast as they can. We, on the other hand, shut down an average of one airport a week in the United States.

In Ron’s backyard, Santa Monica residents are trying to close Rialto Airport – one of the world’s oldest and most historic airports. However, Ron did note and wrote extensively about how the experimental aircraft industry is still growing by leaps and bounds – offering one bright spot for the future of general aviation.

Otherwise, its not looking good for general aviation in Southern California and no doubt in many other places. Maybe at some point, general aviation pilots and buffs will need to move to China to still enjoy flying.

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