interview parts of the job. You rarely see them or hear about them. They don’t lose their bags. I say the same thing about cargo. You never hear cargo complaining about the flight being late or anything. That’s two parts of the airport that kind of run, and nobody pays much attention to. On any given day, you can look over at that ramp at Landmark Aviation, and you’ll see some jets from all over that are coming here to do business in the Roanoke Valley and in the New River Valley. RB: How important is cargo to the airport? Bradshaw: People would be amazed at the activity that goes on here at night with the cargo operators. Each night an airplane full of cargo goes to Memphis with FedEx and to Louisville with UPS. So we really are a transportation hub, or a commerce hub, for that traffic coming in and out. I’m sure that there are businesses here that rely on that accessibility of having those overnight packages within the local community here. RB:There’s an airport here. There’s an airport in Lynchburg. There’s an airport in Richmond. There’s an airport in Greensboro. How many airports do we need? How close together should they be? Bradshaw:The United States had a real large increase in airports being built after World War II, and a lot of cities had service. A lot of them have lost it over the years. I think over time you’re going to see some communities lose their service. … I think the market itself will determine which airports survive and which ones don’t. We don’t have a real plan of service. I know in Europe they have the same issue, too. What’s happened in Europe, the larger cities have ended up with the airports, not so much in the smaller communities. I think over time it will be an evolution. The strong will survive, and some won’t make it. RB: Modern cars have a GPS sys28
tem that can pinpoint where they are, but the technology we’re using in airplanes isn’t all that different from what we were using in 1947. Are there any big innovations around the corner? Bradshaw: People are astounded we are still using ground-based navigation systems when we have all the satellites … FAA cannot keep up with the technology, and the industry is demanding it. We could run our airplanes a lot more efficiently, have better routes in the sky, get in here more on time, better weather capability, all these things if we could finally get over to that satellitebased navigation system. But it’s going to take a long time. RB: Why should people who don’t fly care about the airport? Bradshaw:It really leads to quality of life for all of us. We mentioned earlier the cargo, getting your overnight packages. We’re such a mobile society now. You may have your kids or grandkids living in Phoenix or whatever. It gives you that opportunity to access the national transportation or international transportation, to travel, to do all those things … It also helps to recruit business and industry and that adds jobs … It’s part of the economic development toolbox … It’s just as important as the parks and recreation, the interstate highway system, the government services. It is a quality-of-life issue. RB: Roanoke is about to get passenger rail service again. Is that going to affect the airport? Bradshaw: I think it enhances the overall transportation system that we have. People who are taking the train are not necessarily the people who would take an airplane … I think it will complement the service here. RB: What are your big plans for the airport’s next three to five years? Bradshaw: Airport development and
economic development really go handin-hand, so I want to nurture those relationships with our economic development partners. I want to engage the business community. I want to talk with them. My ultimate goal is to put people in the seats of the airplanes. The only way to do that is to grow economic development … My immediate goal is to try to improve upon our existing air service and to get people aware of what the airport does and the role it plays in the community. I think a lot of people just take us for granted. I would, too. You know, it’s there. I use it sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. RB: What should we have asked that we didn’t? Bradshaw:The one thing I want people to understand is … the issues that we face here in Roanoke are really the same other communities are facing with air service. It’s a new era now since ’08 – the industry consolidation. There’s less capacity out there. They’ve shrunk the number of flights by 20 percent since 2008. The airlines are making money. They’re profitable. They’ve squeezed the supply side. I want people to understand Roanoke is not any different from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Columbia, S.C., or other small-type communities. They’re facing the same challenges we are. So we’re not doing anything wrong, we’re just … trying to deal with the new way that the airlines do business. And it is tough. RB: If this is a small community problem, how big would we have to be to not have to worry about our airport? Bradshaw: Greensboro. We started this conversation with people driving to Greensboro and Charlotte. They have more choices. We are – what are we, 250,000 people in the region? Smaller communities just have more struggles when it comes to these sorts of things. That’s why people drive to the larger cities. They’ve got more shopping, more things to do, more everything. We’re a great big, little city.