POV: Community airports keep us safe

The writer is the president and CEO of the South Albany Airport Corp. and the airport manager.

Every day, while most of us sleep and go to work, our law enforcement personnel carry out activities on the ground and in the sky to keep criminals off the streets, search for missing persons, carry injured patients to life-saving treatments and assist in firefighting efforts.

Unfortunately, most of us do not realize how important these operations are until we are directly affected by emergency ourselves. But here at South Albany Airport in Selkirk, the Aviation Unit of the State Police, pilots practice day and nighttime approaches and maneuvers to ensure the safety of the public, as well as the safety of the officers. Law enforcement aircraft are invaluable in safely resolving high-speed chases, locating missing persons, providing real-time information about potential dangers to officers where there are fences or other visual obstructions.

The Army National Guard also utilizes South Albany Airport for the purpose of honing the ever-so-important pilot skills in both day and night operations. Black Hawk helicopters serve a great purpose in the military. Black Hawks have assisted in combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East. They also prepare for natural disasters and other events as well as keep our country safe and secure.

LifeNet, owned and operated by Air Methods, the world’s largest air ambulance company, visits the airport frequently for refueling after transporting medical patients and medical emergency victims to the Albany Medical Center Hospital.

These benefits do not stop there. South Albany Airport enables nonprofit organizations such as Angel Flight to provide free flights to patents, especially children and veterans receiving specialized care where other modes of transportation are not an option, and deliver desperately needed organ and blood donations with speed and reliability. Because of its proximity to nearby hospitals and trauma centers like Albany Medical Center and Westchester General, small aircraft help to ensure the patients are getting the immediate care they require. All of this comes together by the very generous pilots that not only offer their plane, fuel and time but a heart full of dedication to help those in need.

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