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Business Aviation:
The embodiment of Aerotropolis

Business Aviation is an underutilized resource- often neglected when companies and planners look for solutions to economic concerns- contends Jack Olcott.

As cities struggle to recapture jobs lost in the recent past- policy leaders are taking a fresh look at air transportation as an enabling technology for economic development. While always important- travel of people and goods by air is an absolute requirement for success in today’s fast-paced- ‘just-intime’ business culture. Thus the need for airports has taken on a new dimension.


University of North Carolina (UNC) professor John D. Kasards- a teacher at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School- examines the emerging phenomena of land developments that leverage the necessity of air transportation- and the attractiveness of airport proximity. In his new book entitled Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next- written with journalist Greg Lindsay- Professor Kasards explores how city planners are integrating airport development with programs for attracting businesses.

He offers convincing arguments that in the current era of globalization- people choose locations for living and working where they have access to advanced communications and jet-speed travel. In the future- he contends- such people will seek networks linked via airports.

USA Today’s cover story for the Money section in its April 20th issue summarized key points of Aerotropolis- including plans for airport expansionand related development of adjacent business parks being considered by a half-dozen major metropolitan areas in the USA as well as cities in Asia and the Middle East.

The focus of Professor Kasards’ book is airports and business parks associated with airline activity. I could find no mention of Business or General Aviation- per se. Remaining silent on the role of Business Aviation in economic development is- unfortunately- all too common among planners and policy leaders. The opportunity to consider the benefits of Business Aviation should not be missed.

Because the facilities needed to support air transportation via business aircraft are relatively small compared with airline needs- less time and fewer dollars are required for creating and improving airports for Business Aviation. Furthermore- numerous airports suitable for business aircraft already exist. Planners of airline hubs- however- are faced with numerous environmental regulations and considerable community resistance - and the cost of construction is very high. Typically- billions of dollars and decades of time are required before concept transitions into reality- particularly in the USA.

(Apparently among foreign governments- particularly in the Middle and Far East where the need for air transportation has a particularly high priority because of the need to attract business- bureaucratic obstacles appeared to be cleared with greater speed.)

Also- airports serving Business Aviation are sufficiently numerous and dispersed throughout the country that they are indeed a network that link businesses in a manner envisioned by Professor Kasards.

While an insightful concept of considerable merit- and one that undoubtedly will gain momentum- creating a mega complex—indeed- an Aerotropolis— that serves the scheduled airlines and their passengers as well as attract business relocation- is a monumental task. Such development- however- should be matched with an enlightened approach to the existing network of airports that can easily serve the thousands of business aircraft capable of facilitating commerce in the USA and abroad.

Consider the USA. Business Aviation provides access to nearly 10 times the number of locations with any scheduled airline service and about 100 times the city pairs that have convenient schedules. With literally thousands of airports at their disposal- companies that own or charter business aircraft currently have the ability to pursue commerce in a timely and effective fashion without being clustered in a metropolitan area such as Atlanta or Chicago.

Factories can be located in regions of the country where labor rates are reasonable and the cost of living is attractive. Furthermore- people in locales with access to Business Aviation benefit from the ebb and flow of commerce facilitated by companies that are not tied to major cities. Business Aviation brings business to the heartland.

Among the more than 10-000 U.S. companies and entrepreneurs owning business aircraft- most operate from airports located in rural America. They are not based at major airline hubs. Nor are their typical flight activities into major airline hubs. Rather- business aircraft usually fly between less populated airports that provide proximity to major centers of commerce but are not designed to service larger air carriers.

Airports serving Business Aviation do not require the ground infrastructure needed to transport thousands of people each day to an airline hub. Where improvements are needed- they can be accomplished with significantly fewer dollars and considerably less time than is envisioned to create the huge campus of an Aerotropolis.

Companies with access to Business Aviation- however- are sources of employment for the region in which they are located- and they stimulate commerce. In essence- except for size they are the embodiment of the “Aerotropolis” concept that Professor Kasards identifies. Among the six cities that were highlighted in USA Today’s coverage of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next- each has several airports that could be the magnet for attracting industrial parks - provided civic and business leaders embrace the benefits of Business Aviation.

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