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Economic Impacts of Washington Airports

 
Latest Findings - Airports Create Jobs and Money

Completed by Bucher Willis and Ratliff Corporation in 2001

Economic Impacts of Washington Airports - Summary

Table of Contents (pdf 303 kb)

Economic Analysis Report (pdf 878 kb)

Appendices (pdf 673 kb)

Impact Report

Economic Impacts of Washington Airports by Region

Forecasts


Economic Impacts of Washington Airports - Summary

Aviation plays a major role in the state economy and while airports facilitate commerce, they also serve as economic engines and their direct, indirect and induced benefits accrue throughout the rest of the community as well. Preliminary findings of the 2001 Aviation Forecast and Economic Analysis Study conducted by Bucher Willis and Ratliff Corporation found the combined total for all airports in the system generated 171,311 jobs, over $4 billion in wages and exceed $18.5 billion in annual sales output.

The following table illustrates employment, wages and annual sales output for each category of Airport Reference Code. (See Explanation of Key Terms below.)

Airport
Reference
Code (ARC)

Employment

Wages 

Sales output

ARC A-I

1,422.9       

$27,099,773      

$95,137,980     

ARC A-II

299       

$5,341,231      

$19,502,584     

ARC B-I

2,732.9       

$47,430,414      

$169,334,475     

ARC B-II

2,899.6       

$52,550,292      

$184,859,471     

ARC B-III

632.6       

$13,711,450      

$47,737,185     

ARC C-1

8.9       

$146,136      

$519,004     

ARC C-II

534.1       

$11,391,760      

$33,386,332     

ARC C-III

13,566.1       

$253,643,208      

$909,336,141     

ARC C-IV

408.6       

$8,307,455      

$30,646,570     

ARC D-IV

1,437       

$33,274,317      

$108,284,742     

ARC D-V

147,311       

$4,629,053,112      

$17,009,533,197     

 
TOTAL

 
171,311.1       

 
$4,081,949,148      

 
$18,608,277,682     

Explanation of Key Terms: The Airport Reference Code, or ARC identifies the highest performance aircraft the airport was designed for based on its approach speed and wingspan. Most small general aviation airports in Washington are categorized as ARC A-I, A-II and B-I (single-engine aircraft); many urban general aviation airports are ARC B-II and C-II (turboprop and business jets); and most airports with commercial service (transport-category size aircraft) are ARC C-III through ARC D-V.

The state aviation system plan contains 129 airports made up of commercial service and general aviation airports. In the 2001 analysis, general aviation airports, alone, generated 7,615 jobs, $140,774,869 in wages and $490,351,863 in total sales output.

Aviation Activities

Airports permit the rapid transportation of passengers, cargo and mail. As well, much of the activity by small general aviation aircraft is for flight training, which enhances the State’s pool of pilots, business travel, agricultural application and recreation. In addition, there are other important roles that airports perform. For example:

Commerce: Transport of cancelled checks.
(Note: One of the State’s largest banks ships cancelled checks by air courier with 5 flights a day, 5 times a week.)

Medicine: Transport of blood products, pharmaceuticals, donated tissue and donated organs.

Medevac: Air ambulance service. In 2000, 757 emergency air transports occurred with most patients transferred by air due to major injury. Many other non-emergent flights occurred from rural locations to access specialized technology, lack of hospital beds or lack of nursing staff to facilitate patient needs.

Search/Rescue: Small-scale and full-scale missing aircraft searches.

Role of Rural Airports for Economic Health

The various roles and benefits of airports are well recognized for commercial service airports and urban general aviation airports. Less known is the benefit to state and rural communities provided by rural airports. Rural airports are often small, found in isolated locations and are facilities with which much of the population have no direct experience.

Preliminary findings from the rural airport study, Determining Infrastructure Needs for Rural Mobility by Washington State University indicate greater reliance on rural airports for economic health than previously identified. For the three case study communities, Forks (forest product dependent economy), Omak/Okanogan (irrigated agricultural economy) and Goldendale/Dallesport (non-irrigated agricultural economy), research found consistent belief that rural airports are part of the basic infrastructure that is required for the health, safety and economic well being of the residents living in the communities.

To maintain economic viability, rural communities must maintain access to the urban centers of banking, commerce, law, engineering, medicine and other specializations. Rural airports are a means of access to the specialization found in metro centers and the most prominent example of this phenomena is found in the medical sector. With the consolidation of medical specialization concentrated in urban centers due to the high cost of new medical technology and the difficulty of recruiting and keeping personnel, rural hospitals must send many patients on to hospitals that can offer the specialists and equipment required by specialized treatment. Since many of the rural hospitals in Washington are Trauma Service Level IV, patients requiring treatment at Level I (most complex injuries) or a Level II hospital are transported to those facilities, often by air.

The research found airports, in several cases, to be a symbol of hope for rural communities fighting for their economic life. In some respects, it is impossible to quantify the value of these benefits yet they are real, even if not recognized, to the people who live and work in rural communities.


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