Although many East Valley residents, especially those living in north Tempe and south Scottsdale, would like to see the growth of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport come to a screeching halt, that wish is unrealistic. As the Valley’s population continues to mushroom, so will the volume of air traffic at Sky Harbor.
But there is a realistic expectation of some relief from the relentless expansion of Sky Harbor that not only creates headaches for travelers trying to navigate the interminable airport construction projects, but also for East Valley residents wary of additional noisy overflights.
The relief is in the form of satellite airports, the biggest, best and most fully developed being the East Valley’s Williams Gateway Airport. It has a small commercial terminal ready for business, and two excellent runways ready to handle jetliners.
East Valley officials who comprise the airport’s governing board are ready for business, and Phoenix’s officials say they welcome that prospect.
Trouble is, there’s still no business at Williams Gateway’s commercial airline terminal. Aside from an occasional charter flight, the place is locked.
As we’ve said previously in this space, WGA would be an ideal short-hop airport for East Valley residents going to and from places like San Diego, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Several satellite airports perform the same function in the L.A. basin, and it serves travelers well.
Clearly, though, it’s going to take some effort and leadership to create the same model in the Valley. The Federal Aviation Administration recently released a report on Phoenix’s latest plans to replace Sky Harbor’s Terminal 2 with a much larger terminal, and the report essentially wrote off Williams Gateway as a future Valley commercial aviation player.
That is erroneous, to say the least. Outrageous would be a better description.
The key to Williams Gateway achieving its full potential as a major East Valley aviation and employment hub is development of the airport’s commercial potential. Given the FAA’s turning a blind eye to WGA, the East Valley’s leaders should unite not only in strong objection to this bogus report but also in strong opposition to any further expansion of Sky Harbor until Williams Gateway gets the commercial airline business it is ready and waiting for.