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Sunday, January 22, 2006
Air Pork
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 4:00 pm

The Mobile Register has a story on the expansion of the Troy airport and a clash with a neighboring Methodist Church: Airport expansion pits church against city of Troy.

The story includes this little tidbit:

The project is among the latest in a string of small-airport expansions across Alabama, fueled largely by the state congressional delegation’s ability to cover the bills with taxpayer money. It has the enthusiastic backing of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, who helped to push it forward with a $1 million appropriation released last year.

[…]

In all, the project will cost about $5.7 million, almost all of it from the federal government, according to projections filed with the state aeronautics bureau in 2003.

Lovely.

I have no problem with the airport expanding, per se. I have a great deal of trouble with the notion that federal taxpayers should be paying the bills. I lived in Troy for 4 years, and have worked there for 7.5, and I have never even seen the darn airport. The only time I even hear about it is when there is a crash.

Indeed, the most amusing reference to the Troy airport ever was when a plane belonging to Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys) hit a deer on the runway. One of Jones’ sons was in the town for some sort of fundraiser for a local school. The amusing part was the the local newspaper, the Troy Messenger had a write-up on their web page that Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach Jimmy Johnson was in town on the flight. This was funny because a) the Dallas HC wasn’t in town and b) at the time, Jimmy hadn’t been the HC for years.

Back to the airport and local politics:

Like several other Shelby-backed aviation endeavors, however, it is also drawing questions about who will benefit.

[…]

Far and away, the biggest potential gainer from an expansion would be the companies owned by Wiley Sanders Jr., best known outside of Troy for the long-distance trucking company that bears his name. Other Sanders ventures include lead and plastics recycling businesses. With more than 1,300 employees altogether, Lunsford said, they collectively comprise the largest employer in surrounding Pike County.

Out of a total of 542 penalized flights, the survey found, Sanders aircraft accounted for more than 80 percent. But Barge Waggoner planners also suggested that a 6,500-foot runway would not be long enough to solve the problem.

At least 7,340 feet would be needed for the Sanders companies to operate their two Gulfstream II turbo-jets “at maximum takeoff gross weight,” the survey said, adding that 10,000 feet could be required under certain conditions.

If Sanders needs a longer runway, then perhaps he ought to fund the expansion himself. In fairness, he isn’t a big contributor to Shelby:

While he may carry weight as a local employer, Sanders is not particularly active as a political donor, records show. He has given no money to congressional races since 2000, when he contributed $2,000 to Shelby’s campaign fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C., research organization.

Of course, Sanders wouldn’t be the only to benefit, however:

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin, which has a missile plant in the area, was “very interested” in bringing larger aircraft into the airport but could not estimate the number of operations because of security concerns, the Barge Waggoner survey reported.

For Troy University, it would allow the Division I football squad to fly into Troy rather than taking chartered Boeing 727’s to Dothan, said John Schmidt, the school’s senior vice chancellor for student services.

Filed under: US Politics, Alabama Politics | |Send TrackBack

1 Comment »

  1. I actually flew into that airport once, about 13 years ago. it was tiny, but it did have a terminal building, of sorts.

    Comment by Harry — Sunday, January 22, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

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