When most of us think of Manhattan Regional Airport, we think of a ride to Dallas, Chicago or until recently, Phoenix. These “rides” are partially tied to economic generators for the community, as business travelers and others can literally cross the globe once they get to any of these destinations. Other business travelers can get to MHK fairly easily.
Most of the airport’s visitors never go to the “other side” of the airport, often called the East Ramp. This side of the airport hosts the local segment of MHK described by the two most misunder-stood words in air travel: “General Aviation” or GA. GA is every other type of flying other than scheduled commercial service. GA also includes the facilities, businesses and people associated with the support of GA and commercial aircraft. We are blessed with two great businesses at MHK that provide this support.
So, what about GA? Well there is more to it than a bunch of people with expendable income spending their weekends dreaming of being Maverick. Sure there are those types too, but who cares? Flying is about freedom, and if a Maverick wannabe gets his fix through general aviation, that is OK. For others, general aviation is a means — a means of flying to destinations when we want or need to, challenging ourselves, learning a new skill or generating income.
These trips can be related to flight training, crop spraying, a business meeting that would otherwise involve a two-day trip, recruiting, medical transport and family getaways.
As Manhattan continues the great improvements of airport infrastructure for commercial service passengers, we need to remember what is in those hangars on the other side of the field. Those hangars contain freedom, business development, dreams and direct access to more than 5,000 general aviation airports in the United States. Passengers can go from one corner of the country to the other without going through TSA, without showing up two hours early and without baggage fees — all from MHK. Our country was founded on freedom like that provided by GA and, given the geographical catchment of many of our local businesses and our airport, our community is partially dependent on GA.
As new terminal improve-ments take place at MHK, for the first time in my memory there will be a distinct boundary between GA and commercial air service. This is mainly due to security concerns and space limitations. The days of looking out the window of the terminal building or the American Eagle jet and seeing GA in practice will soon be gone. Our little MHK is transforming into an airport with characteristics similar to the very hubs we can get to from MHK. As this happens, don’t forget what is in those metal buildings on the East Ramp.
Don’t forget the dreams they contain, the freedom they pro-vide and the business income they generate for the community. General aviation is a spirited and important part of our community.
There is a lot of talk about regional cooperation these days. There is also talk about the opposite, as politicians seek to please local constituents. MHK has the opportunity to fulfill both as a regional com-mercial air service provider and GA magnet, generating direct and indirect revenue for the region and Manhattan. Let us seize this opportunity and make MHK a centerpiece for not only commercial air service but also GA.
After all, MHK offers direct access to 5,000 airports not served by commercial carriers. Likewise, 5,000 airports not providing commercial service have direct access to MHK. MHK’s potential to maximize its place as a regional facility must include general aviation.
Jeffrey Hancock, 6353 Harbour Haven Drive, is a local business owner who uses general aviation at Manhattan Regional Airport on a weekly basis for business and personal travel and owns a Cessna 182 that is hangared at MHK.