Our Opinion: Decision on air service must be grounded in reality

News Tribune editorial

A decision the Jefferson City Council will face may determine the future of air service in Central Missouri.

The council is considering investing in the regional concept of air service by contributing $100,000 to attract a commercial air carrier to Columbia Regional Airport.

The regional airport is located between Columbia and Jefferson City and is the nearest airport offering passenger service to local residents.

Jefferson City, however, has its own airport, located just north of the Missouri River.

Memorial Airport does not host a commercial carrier offering passenger service, although at least one entrepreneur hopes to bring service here.

Although its activity is roughly equivalent to its regional peer, Memorial Airport traffic largely pertains to private business, medical assistance and state government, including the Highway Patrol and National Guard.

Members of the Jefferson City Airport Advisory Committee oppose funding for Columbia Regional Airport.

They argue the local airport has its own needs, including renovating the control tower and adding hangar space, to be marketed much like the area Chamber of Commerce uses spec buildings to attract prospects.

They also questioned the wisdom of the proposed investment.

We share their concerns, which are intensified because details of the proposal remain vague.

As outlined, Jefferson City would contribute $100,000 to land a new commercial airline by offering a guarantee of one year of profitability.

Presumably, If the airline profits, the money remains unspent. If the airline is unprofitable, the money offsets the loss.

Advisory commission members have wondered aloud whether an unprofitable airline would take off after the one-year guarantee has expired.

Good question.

The regional airport concept has merit, bolstered perhaps by the University of Missouri’s entrance into the Southeastern Conference, an athletic division supported by enthusiastic alumni and sports fans.

We encourage council members to resist any flights of fancy regarding this commitment, which could influence the future of air service in Mid-Missouri.

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