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Column: City airport should not stay shrouded in obscurity

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OF all the missions new Columbus Municipal Airport Director Brian Payne has decided to focus on from the start, the one to which he has assigned a high priority might seem surprising to some observers.

He wants to make the people of Columbus aware of the airport. Ironically, he has hit upon one of the institution’s few shortcomings.

Whether it be its distance from the city’s center or its presence for 70 years, the former military air base, which was converted into a variety of uses when Columbus took over its operations, is taken for granted by far too many local residents.

There are several aspects and assets to Columbus Municipal Airport that need to be emphasized in the coming years, especially since the facility is one of the key elements in helping to drive the city’s economic growth.

One of the subjects about which too many are unaware is that the airport is a self-sustaining facility. It has not required any funding from taxes. Indeed, the management of the airport throughout several decades has established several revenue streams, ranging from fuel charges and restaurant rental to income from farming and building development. Numerous public and for-profit entities lease property from the Aviation Commission.

Of even greater importance is the role the airport can play in economic growth. In addition to land on which investors can build operations, it is finally developing into a transportation venue that is of vital importance to a number of factories and businesses throughout Bartholomew County.

After several tries throughout the years to establish a commuter air operation, the facility seems to have made the right connections with its flights to and from Detroit, a service used by several local companies and individuals who have business dealings with their counterparts, chiefly in the auto industry, in Michigan.

Another overlooked asset in the sprawling complex is the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, a facility that has become a premier repository of important local history as it relates to the military past of the airfield. Supported by the Aviation Commission, the museum is about to embark on a major expansion that should further enhance that role.

The past and present play into what the airport has become over the years.The potential the airport has for itself and the community at large makes this institution worth bragging about.

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