Built by the United States Army Air Forces in 1943 to support the Portland Army Air Base during World War II, the Aurora State Airport has grown to become the third busiest airport in Oregon.
The airport, operated by the Oregon Department of Aviation, is located northwest of Aurora in Marion County. After decades without an air traffic control tower, Aurora State Airport enhanced the safety and efficiency of its take-off and landing operations with the 2015 construction of a $3.3 million Federal Aviation Administration control tower, the first of its kind for the 32 regional airports in Oregon.
A $2.7 million ConnectOregon III grant helped fund the new tower, which provides air traffic controllers with unobstructed views of the airfield as well as visual and electronic monitoring of takeoffs, landings and ground movement of aircraft.
According to the 2014 Oregon Aviation Plan’s Economic Impact Study, the Aurora State Airport’s economic impact equaled more than half a billion dollars, not including tax revenue generated from property or income tax. Airport businesses employ 1,200 people, including two of the largest and most recognized heavy-lift helicopter companies in the world—Columbia and Helicopter Transport Services—as well as the biggest kit-plane manufacturer in the world, one of the biggest avionics dealers in the country, and Life Flight air ambulance.
An additional 274 jobs off the airport property are directly attributed to off-airport visitor spending, totaling nearly 1,500 jobs.
Justin Dillingham is the Chief Customer Officer for Life Flight Network, the largest nonprofit helicopter emergency medical services operations in the country. He says the safety and collision avoidance technology paid for in part by ConnectOregon has been extremely valuable.
“We serve Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, so we have to bring equipment in and out of our headquarters at Aurora for maintenance as well as operate our life-saving service. It can be quite hectic,” Dillingham says. “Having the Aurora Air Traffic Control Tower increases our efficiency – in life-saving operations, every minute counts and the faster you can fly out, the better.”
“The Aurora air traffic control tower represents the best in transportation infrastructure improvements that ConnectOregon brings to Oregon,” says Mitch Swecker, director of the Oregon Department of Aviation. “It brought us a safer airport and helped attract new business enterprises and jobs to the local communities in the region.”