Steve Austria is no Dave Hobson: Airfields and tax dollars

By this fall, Ohio will have two dead airports. Both have received considerable tax payer support. The DHL facility at the former Rickenbacker AFB is DOA, which will be “donated” back to the State (note- this is an easy way to say they are walking away from a tax bill). And while long ago, this airport would have made an excellent regional airport for Cincy, Columbus and Dayton- that ship has long sailed. Since then, Dayton has lost both the Piedmont Hub and the Emery Air Freight business, Columbus is still a minor player and Cincinnati still has Delta- but makes passengers pay dearly to fly out (it’s often cheaper to board in Dayton- fly to Cincy and then connect than straight out of Cincy).

No matter how much more money goes into Wilmington, the major Air Freight carriers have made their moves and aren’t coming back. Unfortunately- this leaves huge warehouse and distribution equipment as well as depot service facilities without much opportunity except for a few flights a day to the main hubs. Eventually- these businesses too will move.

On the other side of things- we have the totally redundant Springfield Air National Guard base which Dave Hobson managed to get some large earmarks before he left office. No one could explain why we had a separate F-16 base a minute away from WPAFB in the first place, yet, it was funded with millions of dollars for construction after the decision to move the F-16’s to Toledo- leaving the only operation there a “training base” for foreign air forces. Excuse me? The government funds a school to train other air forces- so they can buy our planes? That’s not what our tax dollars are for.

Apparently, Springfield wasn’t even competitive, as we now learn:

Singapore won’t train its fighter pilots at the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced in September that Singapore was considering training here.

Rather it will send its students to Tucson, Ariz., to learn to fly F-16s, the Ohio Adjutant General’s Office learned Monday, Jan. 4.

Base personnel were told of the decision Tuesday.

The training costs between $900,000 and $1.2 million less per student in Tucson, said Mark Wayda, vice chief of staff of the Ohio National Guard.

“It really is purely economics,” he said.

via Singapore pilots not coming to local base.

How much money did we squander on this Hobson earmark? Now, as the jobs go- and the buildings get mothballed- shouldn’t we do an afteraction investigation on who got paid in the last round of earmarks for stuff that wasn’t needed? Those tax dollars could have been invested in a regional asset that was really an asset- instead of another pet project of Congressman Earmark (Hobson).

And while Steve Austria is holding his line against earmarks, is he really doing his district any favors as yet another major employer goes literally South?

If we held Congressman accountable for their pet projects, maybe the region would be in better shape. In the meantime, we have a few extra empty airfields. Maybe we’ll get lucky and global warming will submerge the private airfield in Florida where John Travolta lives- and he’ll need a new place to park his 707.

But, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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13 Responses

  1. Steve Varner January 6, 2010 / 10:09 am

    So what are we going to do with these two empty airports, Dave?

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  2. truddick January 6, 2010 / 11:05 am

    Somehow omitted: is nobody paying attention to the real costs of air travel/air freight in terms of fuel consumption and the environment?
     
    The example about Delta is true; board in Dayton or Columbus, fly to Cincinnati, land, sit on the plane while more passengers herd in, then take off again to your final destination.  That’s cheaper than just going to Cincinnati, boarding there, and taking off once.  Note that every pound of extra weight consumes more fuel on all phases of the trip but especially takeoff–so Delta, in essence, is charging you less if you make them burn up more fuel.  That’s the sort of thinking that keeps them on the verge of bankrupcy.
     
    Moreover, air travel is by far the most fuel-thirsty method of transportation.  Now, I am not a luddite; sometimes the speed of air travel is completely justified.  But more often it’s not really; how many DHL packages genuinely HAD to be received overnight?  Put them on a train and they get where they’re going a few days later while saving tons of fuel.
     
    We need to return to the days when rail and road and water were the primary, economical, and ecological ways of getting people and things from A to B.  That means fewer airports and fewer air routes.

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  3. David Esrati January 6, 2010 / 12:00 pm

    @Steve Varner- TRuddick hits it- rail.

    The key would be to build highspeed rail- for freight- not people- between the new UPS/DHL hub in Louisville- to Wilmington- so that the facilities could be multi-modal- and – possibly- also connect with Memphis- where FedEx has a hub. That way- all the infrastructure- is still useful.

    Could also consider turning it into a NASCAR track- or another MidOhio style track- not that this brings in a lot of money- but – it’s something. Runways also make great dragstrips….

    NetJets is already in Columbus- so moving them doesn’t make sense- but, any other fractional jet company should like the location.

    In the meantime- I’d really like to know why we just invested millions in Springfield. FBI? Anyone?

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  4. Bubba Jones January 6, 2010 / 12:00 pm

    DE – The “Wilmington Industrial Air Park” is NOT the former Rickenbacker Airport (formerly known as Lockbourne Air Force Base hence it’s designator of LCK).  Rickenbacker is located South of Columbus and is owned and managed by Franklin County along with Port Columbus and Bolton Field.  The Wilmington Air Park used to be called the Clinton County Air Force Base.   If you’d like any more info on Rickenbacker, just ask.  I’m pretty familiar with that airport having landed a Cessna 150 (which takes about 700 feet to land on a bad day) several times on their 12,000 runways!
     
    I’m a little confused by your position about this.  First you blast Hobson by referring to him as “Congressman Earmark” and question the wisdom of funding improvements to this airport.  Then, you question Austria’s position on earmarks by asking if he’s “really doing his district any favors as yet another major employer goes literally South?”  Which is it David?  Should Austria be asking for earmarks?  Should Hobson not have asked for earmarks?  I’d appreciate an explanation of your position.
     
    But, having the F-16s at Springfield is still a good thing!!  They provide a lot of entertainment while I’m eating ice cream at Young’s!! :)

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  5. Bubba Jones January 6, 2010 / 12:03 pm

    DE – you and I were typing at the same time.  Rickenbacker is already considered “multi-modal” and already has facilities for UPS and FedEx.  Not to mention a passenger terminal for some charter companies that operate there.  If high-speed freight rail is installed through that area, they might as well expand it up to LCK.
     

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  6. David Esrati January 6, 2010 / 12:22 pm

    @Bubba- F-16’s are gone as soon as Denmark leaves- and the ONG wing moves to Toledo.

    As to bashing earmarks- yep- Hobson shouldn’t have done it- but Austria should have made it obvious that the recent investment is stupid to abandon.

    Sorry on the screw up on names- I jumped once with 11th SFG(ABN) at Rickenbacker- C130, Dusk, full combat gear. BIG airport… I know- I had to hump from one end to the other.

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  7. David Lauri January 6, 2010 / 1:34 pm

    Fun article about why passenger trains are slower now than they were in the 1920s:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2218394
     
    The Slate article links to an article in which Phillip Longman points out, “High-speed Railway Post Office trains also offered efficient mail service to even the smallest towns which is not matched today.” Although people don’t snail mail things nearly as often as they used to, this certainly can be used as evidence that airplanes are not required for overnight delivery nor even the best choice in terms of cost or impact on the environment.

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  8. Robert Vigh January 6, 2010 / 2:12 pm

    Here is another article on Amtrak from 2002. I think one needs to look into the history of government regulation over the rail systems to understand why they have drifted away. Furthermore, Amtrak operating at a loss and continuing to do so means that no competitor can enter the market. Just some food for thought.
    http://mises.org/story/1030

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  9. David Esrati January 6, 2010 / 3:03 pm

    @Robert It doesn’t have to be Amtrak. The Ohio 3c is Amtrak- but- it may be a good idea to start looking at trying to reconnect Wilmington with Air- through a more cost effective system than planes.

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  10. Steve Varner January 6, 2010 / 3:03 pm

    How do you get rail when there are no tracks that go through the air park? Likewise, how do you go from a straight runway to a round Nascar track?  There’s a dragstrip one county north that’s barely able to operate. It won’t create jobs, just lots of noise and pollution.

    Not to mention, the facility will be irreparable within months. How about we start with something a little less capital intensive. Maybe in logistics? How about an R&D center for emerging technologies for logistics and supply chain management?  It’s not near the interstate, so it will be a tough sell. Why aren’t you griping about the wasted tax money for the OH73 bypass?

    As for Springfield, just keep it minimully operating with private flights and hope for the best.

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  11. Robert Vigh January 6, 2010 / 3:19 pm

    I think that the history of rail regulation may have created a culture that does not look to invest in this type of infrastructure. Also, the thought of building a multi-state rail where instead of buying the required property you would also have to get agreement and consensus from every little municipality would be mind blowingly cumbersome.
    I am all for efficiency, but as you know I feel it arises best in a non-regulated market, not run by government. I think those are the major challenges to drawing interested parties to the investing table. As far as voting it in or building it with tax subsidy etc., well, I would discourage that.

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  12. Bubba Jones January 6, 2010 / 5:06 pm

    >>> As for Springfield, just keep it minimully operating with private flights and hope for the best. <<<
     
    Springfield Airport is already a public use airport.  The military operations there only occupy a portion of the real estate.  The major thing that will happen if the military pulls out is that the tower will close.  It only operates part time anyway so that won’t be a major loss.  As far as continued funding for the airport, that doesn’t generally come from earmarks anyway.  I’m sure there’s currently some revenue from the defense budget, but a lot of the infrastructure improvements and repairs will be funded by FAA funding.  The state will also kick in for that.  Operating revenues at airports like Springfield are generally derived from rents and fuel flowage.  There are several tenants at the airport which include businesses (there’s a small industrial park up there) and hangars.

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  13. Jeff January 6, 2010 / 8:00 pm

    Re Lauris’ article on railroads.  Competition drove speed.  Some of the fastest service in the US was between Chicago and the Twin Cities.  That was because there was three trunk lines competeting for that service: the Milwaulkee Road, the Northwestern, and the Burlington Route.  The Burlington was the first to introduce streamliners,as the article notes, but that was in competition with the Northwestern and Union Pacific for the Chicago/Omaha/Denver trade.
     
     
    I was fortunate to ride on one of those pre-Amtrak streamliners, the Hiawatha, on the Milwaulkee Road.  Still a memorable and well-kept train even in the 1960s.
     
     
     

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