From the Director’s Desk: Celebrating 2023
December 7, 2023
2023 may be the year we finally felt as though the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on aviation were becoming distant memories. There are still hurdles to clear, including repairing and improving the pipeline of new pilots to both address and prevent pilot shortages, and expanding our focus to recruiting and training new air traffic controllers. But there was a renewed sense of optimism despite these ongoing challenges. For the QC Airport, there were many wins to celebrate and events that marked a successful year.
Without question, securing twice daily service to Charlotte (CLT) with American Airlines was the biggest win of the year, and of the last several years. This will add 56,000 annual seats to our market and provide another major global hub for passengers. With American’s existing connections through Chicago O’Hare and Dallas-Ft. Worth, Quad Cities passengers have multiple options to travel anywhere in the U.S. and beyond with the oneworld Alliance network. Securing this route was made possible through years of hard work gathering and analyzing data, and through the support of local businesses who have expanded to the Southeast. We hope it will serve as a catalyst for more good things to come.
While commercial air service is our main function, we also have a rapidly growing general aviation community. General aviation is vital to the health and sustainability of our industry. The pilot shortage can only be solved with a robust general aviation community, and we’re fortunate to be the home base for several flight schools, all of which are growing. The growth of these local flight schools coupled with a more stable commercial flight schedule contributed to record breaking tower movements. In total, increased tower movements create better training and proficiency potential for air traffic controllers and raise the ceiling on grants the airport may be eligible for, for various airfield and terminal improvement projects.
I’ve been outspoken about wanting to conduct a spaceport feasibility study at the airport for years. Since airports plan 20 years into the future, I would hate to look back two decades from now and wish we had done what was required to support commercial space travel. I would also hate for our region to miss out on potential opportunities to build the necessary infrastructure that could have created jobs and put us on the map as part of a domestic space travel strategy and network. We will never know what’s possible if we aren’t willing to take stock of our assets and ask if they are aligned with FAA certifications, of which there are a limited number given to spaceport sites. Thanks to a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the study is progressing and I’m excited to take the first steps down this potentially historic path. I want to acknowledge the community leaders and elected officials, like Congressman Sorensen, who support this vision for our region.
The FAA requires airports to conduct a full-scale emergency drill every three years to prepare for major disasters such as plane crashes. This is a tremendous undertaking led by the airport public safety manager and his team of cross-trained law enforcement officers and firefighters. After hosting a small drill in 2021 to comply with state COVID requirements, we returned to full-form this year with more than 200 participants from around the region. On one of the hottest days of the summer and on record, volunteer victims, local first responders, hospitals, evaluators and more converged on the airport to test the readiness of our region to handle a catastrophic event. I want to thank Chief Jeffrey Swan with the Quad Cities International Airport Public Safety Department for his leadership, our officers, and everyone throughout the region from Muscatine to Cedar Rapids and everywhere in between, who participated in the drill.
Girls in Aviation Day
In our third annual Girls in Aviation Day co-hosted with John Deere and Elliott Aviation, we grew attendance to nearly 500 people – doubling the attendance from the past two years. Our exhibitors who volunteer their time on a Saturday to share their love of aviation with students of all ages (and their equally enthusiastic parents, troop leaders and family members), have made this event a highlight of the year. Inspiring kids to explore an interest, hobby or career opportunity is an investment in the future of aviation and we love hosting this special community event.
In addition to various events and wins, we also celebrated 5, 10 and 20-year anniversaries of airport employees, and many received awards and recognitions for their good work. Nearly 100 people work directly for the airport overseeing all aspects of the facility from building and airfield maintenance, finance, operations, marketing, human resources and public safety. Our airport is nothing without our people and while we try to celebrate them every chance we can, no recap of the year would be complete without expressing my gratitude to them. As far as what lies ahead, we know for sure 2024 will have its own share of exciting news and updates for the airport but I feel confident that our people will help lead us into another fantastic year.