BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) -Flying high... From small single-engine aircraft to large multi-passenger corporate planes, the Batesville Regional Airport can handle them all.
Governor Mike Beebe has declared March "Aviation & Aerospace Appreciation Month" to salute the Arkansas Aerospace Industry.
General aviation is extremely important to Arkansas' statewide economy...Every airport and airstrip is important to the state's economy.
For every gallon of fuel sold as well as every minute a mechanic turns a wrench, general aviation brings dollars to the state's coffers. Lots and lots of dollars.
"I really think if this airport wasn't here, Batesville would really be hurting."
Mary Amos is the airport manager. From its humble dirt strip beginnings, Batesville now draws aircraft from everywhere.
"Probably 90% of our airplanes that come in are corporate jets of different types."
These planes and people don't just fly in for the scenery they usually come to Batesville for corporate meetings.
Amos says being able to fly in for a meeting vs. going to a big airport and having to drive makes the airport a big plus for industry.
"Con Agra, Townsend, Future Fuels and there's some more here because of the airport."
According to recent numbers from the state. General Aviation brings in nearly half a billion dollars to the statewide economy. Batesville's airport generates around 2 million into the local economy. With 20 - 25 Thousand operations per year it is a very busy place.
On the East side of runway 17-35 sit two hangers full of aircraft being repaired.
In those two hangars is Precision Aerospace Technologies. It's a major tenant at the Batesville airport. It brings in aircraft from all over the country to get serviced.
The company provides aircraft inspection, servicing and repair and avionics work. Bonnie Mamula the President of Precision and a Batesville native,explained to me why they located in Batesville.
Mamula, "We are pretty centrally located for other areas not just for Arkansas. There are other areas we service like Tennessee and Missouri. There wasn't one here in this area. There was a need in this region because there are so many in other places."
Precision has been in Batesville for almost 11 years. Their taxes, employee salaries go into the local economy as does a lot of local purchasing.
Mamula, "Any of the parts or office supplies or anything that we can get that we can buy locally we do purchase locally."
Mamula says she is amazed at the amount of general aviation activity here in Arkansas.
"There are individuals that own airplanes who use them for recreation or in their business and for just travel. There are a lot of companies who have gone to owning their own airplanes just for transportation because it saves them time and time is an asset."
Whether it's pumping gas into a wing or repairing an antenna or whatever makes up the contribution aviation makes to Arkansas, without customers it's just a runway.
Mamula, "I think it's just the customer service you can give. Anybody can give the same product it's just how you treat your customers, how well you take care of them I think is the biggest thing."
And just so you know, Arkansas has over 100 airports with a little over 5000 general aviation pilots who fly over 4 thousand aircraft based in the state.