Pilots are a reserved bunch.
I recall a story of a British Airways pilot who flew into clouds and inadvertently through a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. The ash from the volcanic eruption caused his engines to glassify and progressively shut down.
He landed safely. However, his passengers were understandably nervous about why the jet engines no longer seemed to be running. He soothed their fears by letting them know there was a slight problem that may cause a bit of a delay in their travel plans. His steady composure in a one in a billion situation allowed confidence and control to trump pessimism.
When pilots are optimistic, they use the term CAVU, or clear air, visibility unlimited.
The Clinton County economic climate has seen its share of clouds over the 200 years since its pivotal role in the War of 1812 and since its important place in the War of Independence.
Certainly, the closing of the Plattsburgh Air Force Base was a significant cloud that hung over our community for perhaps five years. Since then, though, the economic clouds have mostly blown away, and we are left with clear skies, perhaps with the occasional summer cloud that blows our way.
Laurentian Aerospace seemed like a bright spot when it suddenly rose on our horizon just before the credit crunch five years ago. Despite every bit of support our community could muster, it apparently still lacks a white knight venture capitalist that is willing to land this project.
There is no shortage of venture capital out there right now for great business plans. However, our nation's inability to rapidly pull out of its economic spiral may have discouraged potential investors. Meanwhile, other states willing to employ more economic-development tools likely continue to woo projects like Laurentian's state-of-the-art wide-body aircraft repair facility.
Certainly, an investment like Laurentian would clearly define our destiny as an aviation region. However, these delays do not represent clouds in our skies.
Already at the former Air Force Base, there are a number of transportation-related companies. Plattsburgh International Airport has also emerged as a new spoke for a number of airlines, especially serving the Carolinas, Florida and beyond. We have, in the past, had regularly scheduled flights, partially subsidized to ensure an efficient postal network, that have also provided multiple flights to Boston each day.
Recently, one airline has discontinued much of their service in the Northeast, but another has decided to replace it. Pen Air, one of the two major Alaskan airlines, will come to the east, to connect Plattsburgh and Maine to Boston.
I welcome this new addition to the Clinton County economic-development horizon. The company brings a rich, long, safe and successful heritage flying in some of the most challenging environments in the world. The worst weather Plattsburgh could throw at it might be considered good weather in Alaska. This experience bodes well for the most crucial aspects of any passenger's decision.
A reliable schedule and a good record of safe operations give our residents confidence that we can use Boston as a hub for flights along the Eastern Seaboard, across the Atlantic or even across the country. Their ability to share mileage plans and reservation systems with bigger airlines allows us the convenience of dealing with larger networks than we have in the past.
Of course, our community appreciates the great success of the airlines flying from Montreal's U.S. suburb to the sunny south. We are also grateful for access to regular flights to Boston.
Many still lament that an early morning flight to Newark, Philadelphia, or even Cleveland or Detroit, would open Plattsburgh and Montreal up to vastly more travel options.
Gates are expensive, though, and airlines are reluctant to invest in a route to a hub without having "proven" the market. On the other hand, the market cannot be proven until an airline takes such a leap.
We have seen that whenever well-run companies take a leap in Plattsburgh, it almost universally pays off. Rural counties across this nation have been slowly declining, but Clinton County blows away one cloud or another and continues to grow.
We have overcome a base closing that sometimes shuts down whole counties elsewhere. We continue to thrive and tighten our economic relationship with Canada.
We are a region that appreciates the transportation industry and aviation, and we seem to embrace that understated pilot sensibility "clear air, visibility unlimited."
Colin Read is the chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at SUNY Plattsburgh. His tenth book, Great Minds in Finance — The Efficient Market Hypothesists, is coming out this fall. Continue the discussion at www.pressrepublican.com/0216_read.