January 20, 2005
Williams Gateway Airport had a record number of takeoffs and landings during 2004, airport officials announced this week.
The airport recorded 240,483 last year, beating the record of 236,278 set in 1999 and jumping by nearly 60,000 over 2003.
Airport spokesman Brian Sexton said the surge is attributed to increased flight training by airport tenants such as Silver State Helicopters and Regional Airliner Academy.
"It’s part of a new trend for us," he said.
The previous record occurred when a temporary military flight training program inflated the number.
The 2004 numbers were announced at Tuesday’s meeting of the airport authority board, which is made up of Mesa, Gilbert and Queen Creek mayors and the Gila River Indian Community president.
The four governments have spent millions of dollars to transform the former Williams Air Force Base into a private airport they hope will spur economic development in the southeast Valley.
Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker said victories such as signing a lease Tuesday with Cessna for a jet service center proves the airport is taking off.
"We’ve been working for 10 years to develop the airport, and some of the results of the efforts are being realized," he said.
But Georgette Baggett of Mesa, who led efforts beginning about five years ago to strengthen real-estate disclosure requirements for homes near the airport, pointed out the post-Sept. 11, 2001, aviation slump has slowed its growth.
"The number of flights coming out of there doesn’t concern me right now," she said.
She said the airport’s "flyfriendly" policy asking pilots to fly as far south of homes as possible has lessened aircraft noise over her neighborhood at Sossaman and Guadalupe roads, but she can hear jet-engine runups from the airport three miles away as early as 7:30 a.m.
"It’s not as bad as when we were fighting it, but it could be better. I know it could be better," she said. Sexton said the number of airport noise complaints is going down, from 391 in 2003 to 312 in 2004.