First, I must admit I’m puzzled as to why comments are being solicited, again. It has been determined that, and I thought settled, there is a more than adequate need to improve the Ravalli County Airport to bring it up to modern day safety standards. Why an extremely small minority of noisy people have been allowed to drag this out further mystifies me greatly. Nonetheless, as a career professional in aviation since 1966, and a user of the Ravalli County Airport, I hereby add my thoughts and concerns.
General Safety: Any time an aviation facility can be upgraded to provide a greater degree of safety for the aviation community and the general community, it should be upgraded. In the case of the Ravalli County Airport the criteria is being met for both those goals. As a graduate of the University of Southern California Aviation Safety Management Program, I believe the plan for the Ravalli County Airport upgrade is a measured and reasonable next step to take.
Community Safety: Because the Ravalli County Airport serves as an operating base for both helicopters, reconnaissance airplanes and single engine airtankers in support of wildland firefighting, the airport is a material element in the overall safety of the Ravalli County rural and wildland interface areas in regard to combating wildland fires. The improved Ravalli County Airport provides for enhanced safety of operation for the crews flying aircraft in support of firefighting operations.
Community Safety: An additional community safety enhancement is having the best possible airport to support medical evacuation aircraft. The medical community will be the first to tell us how critical time can be when a human being has been seriously injured and must be moved to a higher level of care than available at the local level. As identified in the previous paragraph, an enhanced airport provides enhanced margins of safety for the aircrews, sometimes flying in horrible weather and of course for the patients in need of the care. It would be foolish to not provide the best facility possible.
As a general comment in regard to all the safety issues, it is ironic that often the very people who are quick to initiate legal actions against government agencies because the airtanker or air ambulance is based out of Missoula, are the very people who fight such things as airport improvements at the Ravalli County Airport. When their house burns down in a forest fire or their loved one dies, they want to know why better services were not available. They don’t even recognize the self inflicted wound they are doing to themselves.
Economic Impact: This airport has a demonstrated major economic impact on the Hamilton and Ravalli County economy. An improved airport will have a bigger positive economic impact. Airports are good for business and that is a well established fact nationwide.
One Man’s Opinion: Now that I’m in my seventh decade on this planet and having observed human behavior, I have detected a disturbing pattern. Invariably, the people who make the most noise against any public improvement project, such as this one, are really focused on some issue that is very personal in nature. More frequently in recent years, they figure if they can throw a loud enough tantrum, they can get their way. I see this pattern in regard to the Ravalli County Airport. They, and we as a society, must get out of this me, me, me world and back into a world of we and us.