By Joe De Nunzio
California is the most visited state in the country and has 12 percent of the U.S. travel market. Tourism translated into approximately 317 million domestic and international travelers during in any given year. Travel and tourism expenditures amount to over $75 billion each year providing employment for over one million residents.
While much of the tourist travel is in the major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Orange County, the state’s vast transportation system’s roads and rural airports have been crucial to the success of California’s tourism industry in less urbanized parts of the state. Because California is well known for its outdoor and recreational activities such as hiking, sightseeing, camping, fishing, skiing, and mountaineering, venues for these activities are typically located outside of major urban areas, General aviation airports located in smaller communities play an important role in tourism.
Our Sierra Travel News was launched in 2015 to bring awareness to the Sierra foothills. We cover all seven counties that make up the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
California’s airports are critical for providing emergency response services to natural disasters including fires and earthquakes. They also play an important role in disaster preparedness and response, both natural and terror-related. The 13 California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) basis located at our rural airports play a major role in fighting wildland fires.
Most non-pilots do not realize that our rural airports play an important role in saving many lives through emergency and critical medical services that are provided through aviation, particularly in more remote communities. Examples include medical and life flights, flights carrying donated organs, and the retention of world-class medical professionals in smaller communities.
Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies also rely on our Rural Airports with aviation to enforce laws and maintain public safety in California. Agencies such as the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the U.S. Border Patrol, along with local county sheriff’s departments rely upon aviation and airports to carry out their law enforcement duties.