West Virginia’s commercial and general aviation airports contribute about $1.63 billion in revenue and create more than 10,000 jobs, according to a study commissioned by the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission.
According to the just-released West Virginia Aviation Economic Impact Study, visitors to the state’s seven commercial and 17 general aviation airports also spend more than $69 million a year.
“The purpose of the study is to take the first look in over 30 years at the economic impact of our airports,” said Aeronautics Commission Director Sean Hill. “The idea is to get a baseline to understand what the airports mean to our economy.”
The $400,000 study was paid for with funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, with a 10 percent match from the Aeronautics Commission. Results were based on 2019 data.
The study, conducted by planning and design engineering consultants Kimley-Horn, looks at both quantitative data – how much money goes into and out of the state’s airports – and qualitative data – how important airports are to local business, military and medical needs.
But Hill said the Aeronautics Commission wasn’t interested in a study that painted the Mountain State’s airport system in the rosiest light possible.
“We didn’t want any fluff,” he said. “I didn’t want to see numbers that seemed crazy to me. I’m pretty confident in what we came up with.
“We wanted to make sure we took the most conservative approach possible,” Hill said.
The study found that West Virginia’s airport industry employs 10,729 people.
The figure does not include just employees who work directly for the airport, but jobs directly associated with the airport or those from businesses who lease space at the airport. At Yeager Airport in Charleston, for example, 2,940 employees include airport workers, rental car employees, workers at Executive Air and the West Virginia National Guard, which shares runway space with the airport.
The 2,345 jobs recorded at North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg also include employees at aircraft component company Aurora Flight Sciences and aircraft maintenance company Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation.
Hill says the information from the report is important because the Aeronautics Commission has limited funding.
The main source of revenue for the commission is taxes on aviation fuel, which bring in about $1.2 million a year. The commission automatically gives each airport in the state $12,500 a year, but also matches funding put up by the FAA for local airport projects.
Hill also said data from the study will be shared with state lawmakers to make better decisions about West Virginia’s airports.