By most measures, it would make little sense for Scottsdale Airpark to become the Valley’s second airport with regularly scheduled passenger airline service.
Scottsdale is too close — a little more than 12 miles away as the commuter plane flies — to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
The airpark has only one runway. Any airline using the facility would be flying over an area that is already developed. It is populated with people who are sensitive to noise — and adept at making it.
A more logical choice for a second airport is Williams Gateway Airport. Williams is about 20 miles away from Sky Harbor. The area is developing rapidly — but the airport is not completely surrounded by rooftops. Williams has three runways.
Another possibility for a reliever passenger airport would be Memorial Airfield on the Gila River Indian Community, but its runways need work.
Perhaps the most logical site as a second passenger airport is Luke Air Force Base in the West Valley. Sky Harbor’s location serves the East Valley much better than the West Valley. But the West Valley has fought hard to keep Luke operating as an active base. A poor choice in my view but to the advantage of our side of the Valley.
At this point, Scottsdale Airpark looks poised to land regularly scheduled passenger service first. Last week, we learned that a group of airline industry veterans want to start Scottsdale West Airlines, connecting the airpark to destinations throughout the West. They plan to raise more than $50 million and start service late in 2006.
They hope passengers who don’t want to hassle with Sky Harbor are willing to pay extra for convenience.
Scottsdale West may never get off the ground. The City Council needs to OK it. The NIMBYs up north will try to scuttle it. And it is possible the founders could find capital too difficult to raise — or maybe come to their senses.
And if Scottsdale West takes flight, it faces . . . turbulence. The whole airline industry is struggling.
For a big city airport, Sky Harbor is still relatively easy to use. So how many people — who are not already chartering planes or flying themselves or who don’t have access to a corporate jet — are willing to pay extra to save the time and effort of a relatively short drive?
But the larger issue here is this: Capitalism isn’t always pretty or particularly orderly.
Businesses won’t go somewhere just because a city or an area wants them. That applies whether a city is hoping to put a grocery store in an older neighborhood, fill an empty big box, get a hotel built in a downtown or lure commercial airline service.
Officials in the south East Valley have been thinking that Williams Gateway Airport would be the next to land passenger service. They have a terminal and baggage claim. They built it and yet the airlines didn’t come. The Scottsdale West people were looking for a certain demographic. It doesn’t exist in Queen Creek or in east Mesa.
Businesses go where the money is. And that is the only measure that counts.