by Ray Newton
Acknowledging that the Prescott Municipal Airport (also known as Earnest A. Love Field) is the third-busiest airport in Arizona, local elected leaders from Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Dewey-Humboldt and Yavapai County Supervisors are aggressively seeking the designation of “regional airport” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Regional Airports are defined by the FAA as those serving smaller and often lightly populated regions as opposed to those in metropolitan areas.
Part of that pursuit is because the Prescott airport is the third-busiest in Arizona, behind only Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Phoenix Deer Valley Airport, both in the heavily populated Valley of the Sun. More than 272,000 operations (takeoffs and landings) occur at the local airport. A major reason is the flight-training program offered by Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU).
But a long-term motive is that of viewing the airport as a significant economic development engine for the entire region, said John Cox, airport manager for the City of Prescott. Cox reflects the attitude of Prescott Mayor Harry Oberg. Oberg has advocated airport expansion and regionalization ever since he was elected.
Cox also said the City of Prescott is working with Chancellor Frank Ayers at ERAU in initiating a technology incubator to help attract businesses involved in cyber security, drone technology, robotics, intelligence and national security. Yavapai College and Northern Arizona University-Yavapai also are supportive of such efforts.
Attracting such enterprises to an expanded regional airport complex would result in providing job opportunities for local college and university graduates with technological skills, Ayers has said.
The City of Prescott received a funding grant which will cover approximately 95 percent of the estimated $950,000 cost for developing a comprehensive Airport Master Plan. Some additional funding will come from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Among items to be included in that master plan are these:
- An environmental assessment for a new passenger terminal;
- Design and installation of new LED runway lighting;
- Design of a comprehensive airport security upgrade;
- Extension of the runway so that larger planes can use the facility, especially those from the U.S. Forest Service, which uses larger planes to fight fires.
Cox emphasized that the Master Planning Action Committee (MPAC) will conduct public work sessions and open houses throughout 2017.
“We want citizens from the Quad Cities and others who live in Yavapai County to express their opinions of the airport planning process at these meetings or to their respective elected officials, “he said.
Jessie Baker, who joined the airport administration staff in September 2015 as Cox’s assistant, is positive that airport expansion and designation as a regional airport will make a dynamic economic difference for the community. Baker has experience in the aviation industry with Boeing in Wichita, Kansas. She said she moved to Prescott because she views the airport and its affiliated development as “ …unique and vital to the greater community. I look at this as having potential to benefit our collective communities.”
Those involved in the MPAC process hope the plan will be ready for the FAA and ADOT to adopt by 2018. Those wanting further information may obtain it by contacting Cox at his office: Prescott Airport, 6546 Crystal Lane, Prescott; or by calling 928-777-1114.