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Testimony of Thor Solberg
Solberg Aviation Company
National Civil Aviation Review Commission
Good afternoon members of the Commission, I am Thor Solberg, President of the Solberg Aviation Company in Readington, New Jersey. In addition to operating this small aviation business, Solberg Aviation is also the owner and operator of the Solberg Airport. My entire life has been spent in aviation working with my father, an immigrant from Norway, in managing the Solberg Airport, as a line pilot for United Airlines, and as an aviation activist in New Jersey. I currently serve on the American Association of Airport Executives Non-Hub GA Airports Committee and as a member of the National Air Transportation Associations Board of Directors.
It is from this perspective, a person who has experienced virtually every aspect of aviation over the last 40 years, that I am here today to explain to you the critical role that small general aviation airports play in the National Airspace System.
Benefits of Smaller Airports
As you consider the fate of our aviation infrastructure, it is critical to remember that general aviation airports like Solberg Airport account for the bulk of civil aircraft operations. Encompassing everything from flight training, medical transport and business travel to passenger and cargo charters in the largest aircraft, small airports are the foundation of our national aviation system. Over 98 percent of all registered aircraft are based at these small airports.
Many of these facilities also serve a function as relievers for larger air carrier airports in large metropolitan airports. As a reliever, Solberg Airport provides a convenient logistical solution for non-airline traffic in the region. If the aircraft using our facility were forced to use other airports such as neighboring Newark International Airport, delays on the air carriers caused by non-airline operations would eventually mandate the exclusion of general aviation from those other airports. Due to the incredible value these general aviation operators provide to the surrounding community in transportation services, taxes from fuel sales, flight training dollars and associated revenues, any loss of accessibility would be a disaster.
Another item to consider as airport infrastructure is examined is the undeniable industry support many of our nations smaller airports provide. Cities and towns that decided years ago not to construct an airport have learned the hard way that airports attract business. Businesses that utilize corporate or cargo aircraft locate close to or on airports whenever possible. Many towns and cities have lost companies for not having airports or not supporting their existing facilities. Loss of small airports like Solberg, especially in towns that are industrial in nature, has a multiplying effect of not only hurting aviation businesses and the National Transportation System, but also in lost tax revenues, lost jobs, and loss of community identity.
Much like a non-renewable resource, once an airport is gone, it will not be replaced. This is a tragedy that is happening already due to economic variables and would be a major national disgrace if this were aggravated by a short-sighted approach by leaders of the industry. You must not allow this to occur.
The pressure to provide the Federal Aviation Administration with a better source of funding will be intense. As you consider the wide variety of funding operations available, I implore you not to overlook the long-term and very wise commitment our government has made in aviation infrastructure to get us to this point. The United States has the most complex, yet most efficient, air transportation network anywhere in the world. I know. I have literally been everywhere else. As a pilot for United Airlines, I operate at the highest levels of air transportation. As a charter pilot and aviation business operator, I experience the benefits of our extensive infrastructure. As an airport manager of a small non-airline, general aviation airport, I work at the foundation of our air transportation network. I have no doubt that our national efficiency achieved through airline and business aviation would be harmed without continued enhancement and support for our small airports.
I hope that my successors, who will take over the Solberg Airport and Solberg Aviation, will be able to look back at this Commissions recommendations and realize that you wisely saw beyond current budgetary pressures to provide continued support for small, general aviation airports that literally are the foundation for aviation in this country.
Thank you. I would be happy to answer any questions that you have.