Airport officials from around the state are asking legislators to provide state money for runway improvements and safety training. Each year, the state collects eight million dollars in taxes on airplanes and airplane fuel, but Rhonda Chambers, the director of aviation at the Fort Dodge airport, says none of it is returned to Iowa’s airports. She says that’s allowing airports to go without needed repairs. The 105 general aviation airports and eight commercial airports in Iowa are lobbying for a share of that eight million dollars to fix runways and provide safety training classes for airport staff. The airports made the same request last year, but didn’t get any money. Larry Mullendore, director of the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, hopes the legislature’s focus on economic development will make them more receptive this year. Mullendore says airports are the “front door” to over 100 communities in the state, and he says unfortunately folks may discover the value of their local airport only after it closes. The Iowa Public Airports Association says Iowa’s aviation industry has an annual economic impact of 800-million dollars. Andrew Perry is the manager of the Dubuque Regional Airport. Perry says his airport has a 30-million dollar local impact, and even the smallest of Iowa’s airports is an economic plus to its community.
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