In the March 30 issue of The Weekly of Business Aviation, I did a story (subscribers only) on a new advocacy campaign unveiled by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). As part of that campaign, AOPA is encouraging its members to share their stories on the benefits of general aviation.
I just love a good story, so I plan to use this blog to highlight some of the good stories I hear out there about GA use. I was listening to National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" (talk about great storytelling), and stumbled on this story on the plight of Cascade, Idaho's Arnold Aviation.
Arnold Aviation is based at Cascade Airport, where it does airport management and aviation fuel. It has been in business since 1972 and has 1 full-time and 2 part-time pilots. And after more than 30 years, Arnold is losing its U.S. Postal Service contract to deliver mail into the Idaho wilderness, blaming a $6 billion deficit. Arnold's service is the only way ranches, outfitters, lodges and a University of Idaho research station in the wilderness region can receive their mail, due to the remoteness of their locations.
Arnold Aviation has had the postal contract
since June 1975, and the contract itself has been in existence for a little over 50 years, said owner Carol Arnold. "We fly a Cessna 206, or a Cessna 185, depending on the season," she said. "The contract is worth approximately $46,000 annually."
The company was informed in a letter composed by the local postmaster, Arnold recalled. "He was directed by phone to write the letter just informing the patrons that the air route contract would not be renewed after its expiration at the end of June," she said. "We only were given a copy of the letter which was placed in each of their mail sacks a couple weeks ago. Our last flights will be June 24 and June 25."
Arnold flies each of its two routes once a week in the summer months and in the winter 1 route which is a combination of whoever winters there, said Arnold. "Besides the mail we provide a back country radio service out of our office-which before the days of satellite internet, was vital to receiving orders or tracking the whereabouts of the mail or other planes, as well as ability to communicate with their neighbors who might be several inaccessible miles away," she explained.
Besides the communication, Arnold has a shopping service for supplies to go with the plane. "We fly fresh produce, dairy products, normal weekly groceries, building supplies, hobby materials, office supplies, prescriptions, vet supplies and anything you can think of, we have probably purchased," she stated. "It is also a way for patrons to
catch a ride to town to make doctor appointments or other business, including visiting relatives or stocking up on major supplies."
After the mail contract ends, USPS is offering customers a free post office box in Cascade, said Arnold. "These places are all in the designated wilderness area of Central Idaho, which means they are roadless," she noted. "Therefore it is quite a hassle for them to get to Cascade to pick up their mail, and it would not be on a regular basis. We would be able to continue to bring things on a charter at their arrangement, plus permission to have access to their mail."
They are resourceful people--but this was not in their plans when accepting employment in the remote area, Arnold pointed out. "All were aware of the services in place and we have taken good care of our customers through the years," she said.
"We are probably nearing time when we should be thinking of retiring, but are in good health and since giving up teaching jobs to do this - this is our retirement- we had hoped it would be a selling point when we decided to," said Arnold. "The wilderness area still has people and continues to be a tourist industry as the mining and forestry seem to have been eliminated. These are hardy people who are in the business of protecting the area so others can come and enjoy the history and beauty of a very special piece of America."
Arnold does have charter business over and above the mail route, flying building materials, people, floaters, hunters, fishermen, hikers, scenic tours, breakfast flights to wilderness lodges, said Arnold. The company also hauls hazardous materials, including regular gas, diesel and propane to run generators and machinery, as there are also no electric lines overhead or underground, she added.
"Central Idaho is much like Alaska in its remoteness. This is probably what is not understood by Washington," said Arnold.