Bill McElroy Hattiesburg American
Column: General aviation builds Mississippi
April 23, 2017
  • Share
  • From the time I was a kid, I loved buildings. I remember watching the cranes and bulldozers and cranes and thinking they were the most fascinating things in the world. Soon my love of technology and design took me to flying and an interest in flying.

    I ended up appreciating more about flying than I ever dreamed of.

    When I first started my business, I would spend hours on the road traveling to sites. My business was limited, and I missed out on opportunities because they were too far away. I knew I had to find a solution, and that’s how I found general aviation. Now I have projects across Mississippi and the Southeast.

    I design everything from K-12 schools to municipal buildings and industrial sites. I bid on and fulfill a lot of government contracts. It’s an extremely competitive business and using general aviation gives me a critical edge. I can fly to the proposed site, do the survey and proposal, then head to a town hall and speak face-to-face with the officials about the project and their needs.

    I can also deliver unique services to my clients that make my team stand out. Once a client wanted to incorporate a New Orleans-style into their building. Well, I flew out there in 30 minutes, studied the architecture and could go above and beyond to ensure they were happy with their building. Clients also appreciate that I can fly the whole design team together making the project more efficient and communication easier.

    Many of the building sites aren’t on commercial airline routes or even near major highways. But no matter where we need to be there is always a community airport we can rely on. Many areas of Mississippi aren’t served by commercial aviation hubs. Without access through general aviation, these communities would be cut off from critical services and opportunities. General aviation not only supports businesses of all sizes, but it supports important quality-of-life services like emergency and specialized medical care, firefighting, search and rescue, and law enforcement.

    But now there’s a proposal in Washington, D.C., to turn our air traffic control system over to the biggest commercial operators. The big airlines and their buddies are pressuring Congress to remove air traffic control from the FAA and give the system and all its assets to a private board controlled by, you guessed it, those big commercial airlines. I can’t see why we’d give the safest, most diverse air traffic control system to companies that can’t even keep their computers from crashing and causing chaos for travelers. Moreover, I don’t believe we should jeopardize our airports that connect smaller-town businesses and communities.

    General aviation airports contribute more than $488 million to Mississippi’s economy each year. We shouldn’t risk an important economic driver like our public aviation system and turn it over to the highest bidder.

    Bill McElroy is the principal and owner of M3A Architecture based in Jackson.