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National Aviation Month Showcases Airport Local Value

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
National Aviation Month Showcases Airport Local Value

It’s National Aviation Month.

The aviation industry contributes some $40 billion annually to Tennessee’s economy, but the Upper Cumberland impact reaches far beyond economics.

Upper Cumberland Regional Airport Director Dean Selby said military, medical, and police operations rely on regional airports. He said the airport is the front door of the community. When new businesses arrive, Selby said the regional airports and their staffs make the first impression for the entire Upper Cumberland.

“Usually, we’re the first connection we have with those people,” Selby said. “They land here and we’ll be the first time we talk to them is when they walk through the door and they start saying, ‘We’re looking at some sites.’ That’s kind of interesting that they come through here, a lot of times, before the mayors even realize it.”

Selby said the airport is the second highest contributor to the region’s economy, contributing some $20 million annually as of the last study in 2019. He said since then, it has seen a 30 percent increase in business. Jackson County Airport Manager Jim Young said the airport is a valuable tool for education.

“MTSU, they use our airport a lot for training purposes too,” Young said. “Again, because of the remote location of our airport and the challenging terrain that’s around our airport.”

Young said the Jackson County Airport follows Daytime VFR flight rules. He said that creates the opportunity for Fort Campbell to run night exercises and training missions. He said the airport also transports people to Chattanooga and Nashville via LifeLight during medical emergencies.

Selby said local airports create opportunities in the business world that would have never been possible otherwise.

“That’s what gives the Upper Cumberland, through this airport, access to the national and regional companies that rely on aviation to be able to operate their businesses that are spread across the state and across the nation.”

He said the airport also moves a great deal of large freight. He said without that, local factories would be closed for days waiting for materials to arrive.

“Eventually, we’ll get into the commercial passenger operations, we hope,” Selby said. “We’re making plans for that down the road. It takes some time, as we’ve talked about before, but given a few years, I believe strongly that we will see that in this area.”

Young said the airport allows Jackson County to showcase its many thriving local businesses. He said people frequently fly in to eat at local restaurants that they likely would not have visited had air travel to the county not been possible.


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