“Further evidence of the trend to turboprop aircraft replacing piston power.”
That’s what one of my home airport’s commissioners recently said about this picture; a brilliant prediction since the headline hyping Cessna’s new turbo-prop airplane read “proof of a growing trend in aviation,” and many of the popular aviation magazines have been telling us as much for years. Yes, the single-engine turbines are coming!
This commissioner’s business must be doing very well if he is going to buy into a seven-figure turboprop. More power to him. I like the turbines, and I’ll never pass on the chance to fly aboard one of them and see what these remarkable machines can do. The power and sophisticated gadgetry in the panel is amazing! For sure, I’d love to own and fly a sleek new TBM 900, but my 1964 Cherokee 180 is the best that I can do right now, and it serves my flying needs perfectly. It’s also safe to say that not many of the pilots at Taunton Municipal Airport will be trading in their Pipers and Cessnas for turboprops any time soon, no matter what the industry gurus divine in their crystal balls. When our airplanes finally wear out, it’s much more likely we’ll be building and flying Van’s RVs, Zeniths and other homebuilt ships at a fraction of the cost.
I think that this local fascination with the presumed future of aviation is really about Taunton’s nascent casino, which is being built less than three miles from our airport. You’ve seen the gaming industry commercials, with the beautiful young couples spinning the roulette wheel to a jazzy guitar riff, dressed to the nines for drinking and dining and going to shows. Those commercials are a far cry from reality, but there’s no doubt that in addition to the multi-million dollar airplanes, “a whole new era” at Taunton would see more Polo, Ralph Lauren and European sports cars around the flight line, in contrast to the pickup truck and dungaree look which we currently enjoy.
Some of the most avid pilots at Taunton smell plenty of jet fuel when they’re working, flying Boeings 737s, Air Force C-130s and Citation jets, but they keep their personal airplanes at our community airport for the “grass roots” experience of barbeque grills and carefree kids on bikes and J-3 Cubs in the pattern. It would be a shame to lose that to some up-tight commercial airport to serve the casino.
It’s not that I don’t want aviation to progress. There’s plenty of room for the new turbines, as long as they don’t build their corporate hangars on the grass/gravel crosswind runway that our tail-draggers and classic airplanes often use. Real progress would be getting self-serve fuel and removing the old phone poles and downed tree branches laying around. Real progress would be improving access to our airport so that anyone interested in flying airplanes could get through the fences and join the fun. And don’t forget that New Bedford already has two long runways, instrument approaches, jet fuel and glitzy facilities for the high-rollers, all within fifteen miles of Taunton.