busiest single runway airports, the Scottsdale Airport has long been a Northeast Valley landmark. Within minutes of some of metro Phoenix’s most prominent businesses, nearby resorts, restaurants and recreation amenities, there’s no reason that the next time you fly, it can’t be for
both business and pleasure.
But it wasn’t always such an idyllic place. Rapidly constructed as an Army Air Corps training facility within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the school trained over 5,500 pilots before being shut down shortly before the Allied victory in Europe in 1945. By the time their graduates had finished winning the war, they had flown 26.5 million miles – more than 1,000 times around the Earth at the Equator. In today’s miles, that works out to 265 Chairman’s Club memberships with Phoenix-based U.S. Airways.
Since World War II, this dusty patch of undeveloped desert has transformed into one of the region’s vital economic rengines. Last year, the overwhelming majority of their approximately 130,000 “operations” (control tower-speak for takeoff or landing) were privately owned aircraft. Less than one percent were related to military operations. And while flight schools still operate with great appeal to enthusiasts and weekend warriors, dogfighting is unfortunately no longer a part of the curriculum.
If you’d rather leave your Piliot Wings at home, you can easily charter a private flight without the overhead of owning your own plane. While commercial airline travel is increasingly fraught with complications, fees, and security hassle, the sheer simplicity of flying private can be well worth the money spent. A weekend getaway to popular destinations like San Diego, Los Angeles or Las Vegas will start around $10,000 in a jet large enough for seven. Chicago and New York start closer to $40,000. Seasonal residents can enjoy a one way trip into town for considerably less. While flying first class on a big commercial airliner is certainly less costly, the overall experience is anything but first class when compared to flying privately. For the executive on a tight schedule, jets are available at your schedule and are able to land at thousands of smaller airports, potentially saving time by putting you closer to your final destination. No waiting at the airport to board or deplane, no intrusive security checks and no crying children (unless they’re yours!). Your comfort and safety are the primary goals of the flight crew. You are free to be as productive or as relaxed as you like, without all the distractions and inconveniences caused by government regulation and other passengers.
As expected, the economic downturn has clearly had an impact on Scottsdale’s private air traffic. Compared to a recent high of 212,474 in 2005, the number of operations have dropped nearly 40% according to the Federal Aviation Administration. However, that decline hasn’t stopped it from being a key revenue sector for Scottsdale, with estimates placing the economic boost of the airport and surrounding airpark at over $2.5 billion annually.