Governor Bill Haslam declared March as General Aviation Month with a goal of recognizing the impacts smaller/non-commercial airports make in their communities.
At the Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport you will not see any major airlines, but it is the small planes that actually help drive economic impact in Sevier County.
“It’s bringing in a lot of new businesses to the community. Publix flew in when they were building their new store here. The Tanger Outlets, they come in, a lot of the stores do. Belk, Dollywood obviously,” said Airport Manager Emily Haun.
Somewhat unique to that airport is that it not only brings in business executives to help their companies thrive, but during busy tourist seasons they also see a lot of travelers flying in for weekend trips.
About 80,000 planes land each year. All of that together makes a big impact.
The Alliance for Aviation Across America says general aviation like that contributes more than $2.5 billion to Tennessee’s economy every year.
“We have over 50 employees on the airport, not specifically just us, but all the aviation so that’s obviously jobs here,” Haun said.
For these airports it is also about building community relationships.
UT Lifestar is of their partners sitting at the end of the runway.
“We’re stationed at this location 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Flight Nurse Chad McClure.
The helicopter crews taking advantage of being able to work with the smaller airports, getting in and out to better serve patients around the area.
“Knowing that there’s an air resource here in the local area that can get them to the hospital in 10 or 15 minutes versus a couple hours I think is important for people. It provides a lot of piece of mind for people knowing we have this resource right here in the Sevier County community,” McClure said.
You can read Governor Haslam’s full proclamation for General Aviation Month here.