Williams Gateway Airport Plan

Williams Gateway Airport
Community Outreach and
Public Involvement Program

I. Introduction

More and more Airports are including community relations as an integral part of operating an Airport. Community relations play a vital role in ensuring positive relations with local neighbors, businesses, and public officials and becomes an outreach effort that maintains good communications and cooperation over time. It is through an effective community relations plan that an Airport Manager can detect in the early stages concerns or issues within the local public that need to be addressed.

What is Community Relations?

Community relations provides a conduit between the Airport and local publics interested in or affected by the Airport. It can encompass many different aspects and should be a continuing part of the Airport's every day program. A community relations effort should seek to involve the local community in the Airport and educate or make the community aware of the Airport's role in the community.

The need for involving the community in Airport projects and issues is increasingly apparent. Experience continues to show that early involvement in the decision making process and the development of a community involvement program that parallels the technical part of a project are two critical elements to the success of many Airport projects today. Additionally, environmental and political sensitivities require public access, awareness and involvement as part of a project's normal process.

Involvement in local community activities is an equally important aspect in developing the two way conduit desired in any community relations program. It is essential for Airport staff to take time for civic activities and to encourage airport tenants and pilots to do the same. This involvement also opens the door to the two way communication, enhancing the potential for long term compatibility with local communities.

Public Relations or Community Relations?

Today, community relations is not just public relations. Public relations is promoting the Airport. It is "selling" the benefits of the Airport to surrounding communities. It includes publicity and media relations, all intended to improve the image of the Airport.

Community relations is inviting the public to participate in the Airport. Inviting the public to take part in the decision making process. Public relations is "out there" promoting of the Airport and creating goodwill. Community relations programs seek to draw the community in to participate and take some ownership. While public relations is a different function from community relations, there is indeed a lot of crossover and parallel efforts.

Involving the Community

Developing a comprehensive community involvement plan is an important first step towards establishing a conduit with your community. This plan needs to provide mechanisms which most effectively provide outreach into local communities. The community involvement plan should be defined in terms of goals and objectives, it should identify target audiences, methodology and mechanisms for measuring success. Focus groups, workshops, public meetings, direct mail and Airport Friends Groups are some of the tools that are discussed in this report and have proven to be effective.

Community relations can be viewed on several levels. Through community involvement and public participation the community is given ownership of a project, at least to some degree. Through workshops, hearings, small group meetings and one-on-one involvement, interested community members are provided opportunities to comment, provide input and in some cases determine the aspects of a project.

Be involved in Local Communities

A good community relations program will help the surrounding communities better understand the Airport and its projects, by involving them in Airport activities and making the Airport an integral part of community activities. Community involvement includes outreach efforts such as establishing an Airport Users Advisory Group, a Speakers Bureau, and holding community events on the Airport. It includes involvement in local civic organizations and sponsoring local youth organizations.

Community relations also includes providing an effective community response system to ensure timely and effective feedback for anyone who calls the response line with a comment or concern.

Bottom line, a good community relations program makes members of the community feel like the Airport is their Airport.

II. Community Involvement Plan Overview

Unless the public feels it is an integral part of the process, with a voice and some impact, the community is not involved. Just announcing airport decisions is not community involvement. Involvement means actionable input in the planning and decision making process.

It is important for Williams Gateway Airport to maintain high visibility with community involvement because:

  1. Local residents will be suspicious of information if it is guarded or difficult to get
  2. Information from other sources may be incorrect and/or damaging
  3. The outcome of today’s and tomorrow's projects is affected by lack of trust

The goals of the Community Involvement Program (CIP) are:

  1. Increase public knowledge about the Airport
  2. Increase understanding of complex issues
  3. Consult with interested/affected parties during planning and decision making
  4. Establish credibility for the decision making process
  5. Develop consensus
Getting Started

When developing the Community Involvement Program, three questions need to be discussed:

  1. What are the Community Involvement Goals?
  2. When should you involve the Community?
  3. How should you involve the Community?

Outlining the community involvement program guidelines is an important second step. From this you can begin to outline the program itself, seeking mechanisms that most effectively provide outreach into local communities. The program should be specific in terms of goals and objectives, audiences, methodology and methods for measuring success.

Next, outline your decision-making process. The outline can assist you in knowing when to involve the community. This process includes data collection and issue identification, formulation of alternatives, and the evaluation of alternatives.

CIP - Objectives

The Community Involvement Program provides a structure that is designed to enhance compatibility. It also gives the Airport opportunities to

  1. Identify concerns
  2. Explain technical factors
  3. Establish legitimacy of the program, and
  4. Provide understanding of project implications, costs, impacts and benefits

The objective of the process is to develop technically correct and generally acceptable solutions to airport issues. Technical inputs need to run on a parallel path with community inputs and work together with the objective of consensus for the projects' development and implementation. Consensus development is a primary purpose of the activity, regardless of legal or administrative requirements.

Providing information concerning project limitations, restraints, and laws, is important so that the public can aid in developing solutions that are within actionable areas. One key to this is to use technicians who can aid in setting the project parameters and develop solutions together with the community.

CIP - Its Structure

A community involvement program includes a multi-level structure developed to:

  1. Optimize involvement
  2. Maintain continuous monitoring
  3. Provide efficient response system to address concerns
  4. Maximize regional approach, while providing local involvement
  5. Maintain two-way communication

Specific steps required to establish a viable structure for the involvement process include:

  1. Identify stakeholders and develop a database
  2. Research and evaluate local and regional interests, and issues
  3. Research and evaluate potential impacts of project on communities
  4. Based on research, determine preferred structure for conducting community involvement
  5. Develop communication protocols

From these first steps of planning, implementation of this process can be accomplished through various mechanisms, one of which would be to establish an Airport Community Council to give input to the airport and discuss community involvement program aspects.

Working groups can also be established and called upon for specific liaison needs. These working groups are grass root level involvement efforts which provide input to the Airport Advisory Council. Issue resolution can often best be reached through such ad hoc working groups. A group is formed to address a specific issue and usually disbanded as soon as resolution is achieved.

CIP - The Community Response System

A key element of this proposed Community Involvement Program is the Community Response System. The system includes mechanisms for local residents and businesses to voice comments, questions and concerns to the airport. This information is compiled, reviewed, and managed through the Airport Authority and the proposed Airport Advisory Council. Sufficient feedback mechanisms are provided, in a timely manner and in writing, as part of the system.

CIP - Providing Feedback

Periodically throughout the life of the process, it will be important to document input and the process itself. Specific measurement criteria that can quantify activity results for the purpose of determining:

  1. How to know how well you are doing
  2. How to know when to increase/change efforts
  3. How to know when to change strategies

Separately, it is important to constantly monitor the system's effectiveness through:

  1. Airport Advisory Council feedback
  2. Comments at Airport public meetings
  3. Monthly summaries of Community Response System
  4. Input received from presentations
  5. Event after action reports

III. Goals and Objectives

Based on the listening sessions the following Community Outreach Plan was developed with three basic goals in mind:

  1. Improve and increase access to airport officials
  2. Provide more information to keep residents involved and up to date
  3. Increase and enhance residents participation in the Airport and its growth

IV. Issues to Address

At each of the meetings, there were several key issues discussed. These issues are:
For details regarding the issues identified during the listening sessions, refer to the “Community Assessment Report.”

  1. “A.I.I.” - Access, Information, Involvement
  2. Growth of the Airport
  3. Military operations at the Airport
  4. Environmental concerns if the Airport grows
  5. Airport Influence Area and disclosure concerns

V. Key Audiences and Stakeholders

In any Airport outreach effort there will be a number of individuals and groups who will need to be identified and included. Williams Gateway can expand its existing mailing lists to keep local residents and businesses involved in Airport activities.

An essential aspect of any Community Involvement Program is reaching the right publics. It is important to inform as broad a segment of the public as possible, inform the public on how they can participate, and to systematically target publics to ensure an active minority who represent a broader majority.

The Airport can target the right publics by:

  1. Self identification by stakeholders
  2. Third party identification of stakeholders
  3. Staff identification
  4. Public lists
  5. Historical records
  6. Newspaper articles and letters to the editor
  7. Other agencies
  8. User surveys

The following list, highlights the most important groups that will need to be targeted for mailings and meetings in the Williams Gateway Airport area:

  1. Homeowner Associations
  2. Residents close in to the airport
  3. Local community alliances
  4. The general public
  5. Schools
  6. Businesses
  7. Pilots and Airport users
  8. Airport tenants

VI. Mechanisms and Techniques

Implementation of the recommended techniques will require extensive coordination between staff, officials, and ideally, input from the local communities. Details for involving the community in the Airport will need to be worked out. Additional evaluation and research will be required to select the most effective techniques to meet the present needs of the Airport and local communities.

1. The Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 150 Study

The Airport’s upcoming FAR Part 150 Study will provide an important opportunity for the Airport to communicate and coordinate with local residents. During the course of the Part 150 Study, participants will be able to consider many mitigation measures as well as noise abatement and noise monitoring systems.

This study is also an excellent opportunity for the Airport to enhance relations with local residents, homeowner groups etc. The interaction at meetings and input from the public is one of the important goals of a Part 150 Study. As a noise and compatibility study, this can be an excellent forum for developing an ongoing rapport with residents.

2. Noise Response System

An effective noise abatement includes not only a complaint log, but also a record of the follow-up action. It is important to have an entire system with a form to take the complaint or comment and a form that documents the research into what transpired and any action taken, including any feedback to the caller. Williams Gateway Airport has a computer database and response system in place.

A noise monitoring system is an important noise abatement technique at most airports today. Noise monitoring equipment includes permanent noise monitors, placed at key locations usually under arrival and departure paths in or near local noise impacted neighborhoods. This equipment, combined with a system for collecting flight track data can be valuable in investigating and responding to noise complaints. A computer system with sophisticated software assists the Airport in monitoring noise levels. It also can be an effective education tool for pilots and operators. The implementation of a system at Williams Gateway Airport will most likely be included in the Part 150 Study.

The purpose of a Community Response/Noise Complaint System is to provide a communication mechanism for public input and feedback, including complaints, concerns and questions regarding events and activities at Williams Gateway Airport. The Community Response System is used in measuring community response before, during and after project development. Williams has a dedicated community response telephone line.

The Community Response System provides a readily available means for interested individuals to find out more about the project and register their comments. The system assists the Airport to gauge community reaction during each phase of a project. It will allow the staff to quickly determine issues and areas of concern and respond to them, thereby averting a crisis.

The Community Response System identifies concerns, locations and magnitude of concerns. The system should be well advertised to provide maximum opportunity for comments. Input obtained through the system will guide the staff in determining the outreach requirements throughout the process.

It is recommended that The Airport’s Community Response Line be well publicized in local media, utility bills, newsletters, etc.

3. Printed Material

Communicating with local residents, homeowner associations, businesses as well as airport tenants and pilots is an important element in an outreach program. Printed material will be a part of a number of the outreach procedures identified in this report. Printed material is one of the most common ways that airports stay in touch with their neighbors.

Newsletters and other mailings keeps residents and local businesses involved and informed about activities, events and projects at Williams Gateway Airport.

Williams Gateway Airport has had a newsletter for two years. It is recommended to expand the list to additional neighbors. In addition, periodic one or two page letters can keep neighbors up-to-date on Airport projects and events. Airport fact sheets and “Commonly Asked Questions and Answers” are being distributed to organizations, to interested neighbors, to new neighbors, and when an individual calls the Airport with a question or complaint.

Brochures are also an important element. A series of brochures could be helpful for the community to understand what is happening at the Airport in terms of the current Master Plan, the upcoming FAR Part 150 Study etc. Residents often have questions about how a project is undertaken and brochures can be an effective means to explain the process and even show it graphically.

Another brochure could discuss proposed Community Response system and how a resident can be most effective in registering a concern or complaint. Another brochure can be directed to pilots regarding flight procedures into and out of Williams Gateway Airport. It could also discuss noise abatement procedures.

Distribution of any printed material is a critical element to the effectiveness of the information. It is important that any brochures developed are shared with a broad base of neighbors. The Airport’s newsletter needs to have an extensive mailing list to be worthwhile.

4. Events

Airport events are an excellent way to introduce people to the Airport. Williams Gateway Airport has been active with Airport tours for school children, civic groups and local residents. Many airports use volunteers to give airport tours. An open house, or an Airport day could be established as a more local event. In addition, the Airport, or Airport tenants could host Chamber mixers and charity pancake breakfasts or bar-b-ques. These are great opportunities for airport tenants and users to get acquainted with local neighbors.

Staging Special Events

Staging a special event at the Airport is an effective way of bringing the community to you and you to them. It provides you with an opportunity to showcase the Airport’s facilities, its users, and its capabilities. It pulls Airport supporters, users and benefactors into your community relations projects as an active participant; and when promoted, the special event opens the door to positive press in the community at large.

While organization and attention to detail is important in your execution of the event gathering volunteers often becomes one of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful event. Airport users and benefactors understand the importance of community relations to the Airports' long term viability and are often eager to help. It is through these special events that you can provide them with an opportunity to contribute.

Finally, a special event does not have to be a negative cash drain on the airport. If the special event is well conceived (i.e., the public wants to go to it), the event can often pay for itself and in some circumstances, generate funds for future projects.

To truly involve the public and local communities, an airport may want to involve local civic organizations and the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, community leaders may be interested in hosting community events. Examples of this might include a pancake breakfast, barbecue, or other community event. These can be great local economic incentives and can expand the to a broader community focus.

Pancake Breakfast, Tour, and Raffle

This event should span a four hour period on a weekend morning. Develop a theme for the event such as Airport Appreciation Day, Civic Day, or Airport Awareness Day. If you have access to antique airplanes, design the event around the History of Flying and place antique aircraft near the breakfast site for viewing. The event should begin with the pancake breakfast, followed by a fun and informative airport tour which includes stops at airport users facilities, and finish with a raffle of gifts donated by airport friends, benefactors, and users. A per person charge should be levied for the breakfast and volunteers should be selling raffle tickets throughout the morning. When possible have something for the kids to take home such as a paper airplane, wings pin, placemat with the history of aviation outlined, etc.

The event should be promoted through the local Chamber of Commerce, local press, local radio stations, with posters, airplane banners and in your local schools. The breakfast can be used as a fund-raiser for the local YMCA or another local charity. Be sure to solicit volunteer help from the sponsored charity and use them to promote and sell tickets to the event.

Black Tie Fund-raiser to Support Local Charity

Given the right charity, an Airport Black Tie fundraiser is a terrific special event. Airport personnel, friends and users, public officials, and community members alike participate, and the airport receives generous amounts of positive publicity for sponsoring the event. Staging such an ambitious event requires development of a planning committee and extensive pre-party planning. Be sure to include community members and public officials in the planning committee. This will ensure selecting an appropriate charity and help in promoting the event to the public. A detailed action plan and timeline should be developed and used.

Paper Airplane Contest as part of Aviation Day:

A paper airplane flying contest is a fun way to generate funds and excitement at an existing airport event. Proceeds from the event can be donated to a local charity, support local school programs, or be used to offset the main event's cost. Plus, the uniqueness of this event is a good media hook to draw attention to your main event.

All you need to conduct this event is a bell, a referee, a target, and colored construction paper. Adults and kids alike will want to compete. You can even stage this mini event several times during the course of the main event.

5. Presentations and Speakers Bureau

Williams has an active public speaking program. This can be expanded with a Speakers Bureau. Presentations to stakeholder groups is an important way to stay in touch with residents and local businesses. It is an opportunity to provide up-to-date information as well as obtain input from these groups.

A speakers bureau takes time to develop and implement. Speakers can include pilots and operators as well as airport staff or FAA tower personnel. Civic groups are constantly in need of speakers, so a variety of topics about the Airport and aviation is very popular.

A Speakers Bureau can be a very positive public relations tool for the airport. Once guidelines for the bureau are established, and volunteers trained, the Bureau can work to establish the airport as an important member of the community.

The face-to-face contact with a live audience is a direct and effective means of communicating and helps personalize the airport and its programs. It also allows for some "give and take" during question periods which helps to demonstrate the airport's openness.

Guidelines For An Effective Speaker Bureau

First and foremost, make clear that the Speakers Bureau does not represent the airport management in any way. It is simply a forum to provide interesting information regarding the airport for the benefit of clubs and organizations. It is offered free of charge.

Topics are to be predetermined. The organization requesting a speaker can select the topic from an established list. It is important that topics be light in nature, and not invoke heated discussion or controversy. This program can almost be viewed as entertainment. Airport topics for presentation could include the following:

  • A History of General Aviation
  • A History of the Airport
  • Flying, A Fun Hobby
  • Emergency Air Medical Services
  • The Purpose of the Civil Air Patrol
  • The Role of the Helicopter
  • The Economic Impact of General Aviation
  • Air Traffic Control Tower Operations
  • Airplane Repair and Restoration

Speakers Bureau volunteers must be well trained. Because airport issues are often controversial, speakers must make it clear to the organization they are addressing, that they will only speak on the topic selected. If questions are asked of the speaker that they can not address, a speaker should be trained to say “I can't answer that for you, however if you give me your name and number, I will have the Director of Marketing at the Airport get back to you right away.”

A simple brochure on the purpose and availability of the Bureau is required. This brochure can outline how to schedule a speaker, and what topics are available. Once the brochure is developed, a mass mailing to appropriate clubs and organizations can be conducted.

Setting Up A Speakers Bureau

Below is a brief description of the documents needed to set up your own Airport Speakers Bureau. A sample of each of these documents follow.

  • Speakers Bureau Letter Soliciting Members - This letter should be directed to aviation experts, enthusiasts, friends of the airport, airport vendors, airport board members, local business executives, and chamber members who are or could be good speakers. This is an important consideration. Solicited members need to be good speakers who are knowledgeable in their field.. Once you receive responses from potential speakers, you may want to enhance your list of topics based on the trained speakers’ areas of expertise.
  • Speakers Bureau Registration Form - Enclose this form with the Speakers Bureau Letter and ask the potential speaking candidate to complete it and return it at their earliest convenience. Make sure to receive photos and resumes from all candidates as these will be important in publicizing any speaking engagements.
  • Speakers Bureau Appointment Letter - Send this congratulatory letter to all newly approved speakers. Remember to emphasize how important they are to the program. Establish an orientation meeting for all new speakers. At that meeting ensure that they are experienced speakers, provide them with guidelines on how to handle controversial questions, and provide them with a one page Airport Fact Sheet for their use in preparing their presentation and in handling the question and answer period of their speech.
  • Speakers Update Letter - Send an annual letter to all speakers thanking them for participating in the Bureau. Be sure to ask speakers to review their biography and forward to any updates or corrections to the Airport Community Relations Department.
  • The Speakers Bureau Brochure - Develop a brochure which outlines the program, the topics available, and how to arrange for a speaker. Use approved pool of speakers as the basis for determining which topics to list in the brochure.
  • Speakers Bureau Press Release Announcing New Program - Publish and distribute a press release to all local publications announcing the new Speakers Bureau. Be sure to outline how interested parties can gain additional information about the program and how they might sign up for a speaking engagement.
  • Speakers Bureau Letter to the Public - Send a mass mailing with a brochure and reservation form, to all potential clubs and organizations announcing the new Speakers Bureau.
  • Speakers Bureau Reservation Form - Include the Speakers Bureau Reservation Form with all mailings. Request completion of the reservation form from all call-in requests. It is important that the reservation form provide first choice dates and an alternative date, preferred times for the meeting, location of the meeting, size of meeting, time allotted for speakers, available equipment, contact person, and topic preference.
  • Speakers Bureau Reservation Confirmation - Send the confirmation letter once a speaker has been selected. Be sure to confirm critical elements of the reservation such as time, location, topic, size of audience and room set-up. Provide the organization with a contact should they incur any changes prior to the engagement.
  • Speakers Bureau Speaker Evaluation Form - Provide the organization with the Speaker Evaluation Form prior to the engagement and ask that they have the audience complete the evaluation after the session. Be sure to arrange to pick up these forms and review them carefully. This is a critical step in ensuring a high quality Speakers Bureau. Identifying problem speakers and/or topics will help identify potential negative public relations in future engagements. It may also be helpful to forward a summary of the evaluations to the featured speaker in an effort to provide them with some feedback on their presentations.
  • Press Release About Speaking Engagement - When appropriate, publicize speaking engagements.

6. Support Local Education

A fun and effective way of gaining publicity and grassroots support for the Airport is through local communities’ educational system. You will not find a more receptive audience. They will get excited about the field of aviation and over time, become more responsive to airport needs. Whether you work with one facility in an Adopt-A-School program or with local educators across all educational levels to design Aviation Teaching Modules, an educational program's only limits are your staff's imagination and creativity.

Become A Partner In An Adopt-A-School Program

Often school districts have an Adopt-A-School program that match schools with businesses in an effort to enrich educational programs for students and help the community prepare for its economic future.

The program involves meeting with your adopted school's principal and staff and outlining mutually agreeable goals for the program. Such volunteer efforts more often than not become mutually satisfying as the partnership is an investment in the future of the community and local children.

An Aviation Teaching Module

Another approach is to consult with local educators (teachers, administrators, science instructors and career counselors) to develop Aviation Teaching Modules for use at elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools. Each program has a different focus as follows:

Elementary Schools:

An elementary program is designed to promote general interest in the field of aviation.

The format is informative and fun. All children attending the kick off assembly receive a pair of wings. Components of the elementary program could include airport tours, coloring books, teacher designed lesson material, a poster contest for Aviation Days, classroom speakers, field trips to the airport or children’s museum, and aviation films.

Junior High Schools:

A Junior High School program, while still fun, is more sophisticated and is primarily for use in science classes. Sample components of this program are airport tours, teacher designed lesson material, trips to the Flight Museum, an essay and poster contest for Aviation Days, and aviation films.

High Schools:

High School programs are geared primarily for use in career workshops but are also included in social studies programs. Program components could include aviation films, an essay and poster contest, Aviation Days and career day speakers from the Speakers Bureau.

Scholarship Programs and Internship Programs:

The key to the success of all aviation educational programs is the successful collaboration of teachers and aviation experts as they work together to develop the presentation materials. Achieving this end requires early consultation with educators about their curriculum objectives, their teaching techniques and their classroom needs. It also requires obtaining their input on whether existing airport printed and audio visual material (such as videos, slide shows, brochures, posters, etc.) can be effective teaching tools.

Through this partnership, it is hoped that the final program materials, both existing and newly developed, are widely accepted by the educational community and thus used at all levels within the educational system.

You can achieve these objectives by conducting an Educators Workshop at the Airport. At the workshop determine the educators’ interest level in an Aviation Teaching Module, the adaptability of current airport material to the program, and get their input about what materials are needed, what subjects should be addressed, and how these new programs can be cost effectively developed and produced.

Young Aces:

Taking a different approach, two ex-pilots at an airport started up a non-profit program for at-risk juveniles through their Young Aces program. The program gives at risk youths an opportunity to fly a high performance aerobatics aircraft. The ride is a thrill, but also provides a chance for teens to prove their mettle.

Churches, group organizations and juvenile diversion programs recommend participants.

Mentor pilots guide youths through a two and one half hour military style flight experience, safety demonstrations and the 45 minute flight.

7. Airport Facilities

It is important to make the Airport, the neighbors’ Airport. In addition to involving them in Airport activities, providing facilities specifically for the residents helps establish it as more than “that airport.” Ideas include an observation area. As unhappy as some people are with an airport as a neighbor, airports also attract interest from many others who like to watch aircraft take-off and land. Airports that have developed observation areas attract many people, often at lunchtime.

A community room or group of rooms available for community groups is another way to make neighbors welcome on the airport and give them a sense of ownership with it.

8. Establishment of Airport-related Groups

An essential element in the Airport’s Outreach and Involvement Program are groups associated with the Airport. Four common groups that are often established are:

  • An Airport Advisory Council
  • A “Friends of the Airport” Group
  • An Airport Users Group/Tenant Association
  • An Airport Relations Committee for the Chamber of Commerce

The Airport Community Council

Membership in the Airport Community Council can be drawn from local residents, Homeowner Associations and Alliances as well as any airport associations already established, the local Chamber of Commerce members and local pilots.

An Airport Community Council is formed to provide top lines of communication between airport, appropriate agencies and officials. This Airport Community Council will be a group to assist the Airport in making critical decisions related to community involvement. The members’ combined experience will help the airport maintain the most efficient, yet effective outreach possible.

In addition, and of critical importance, the Airport Community Council provides a first line of involvement. Because members represent local residents and pilots, they will assist in developing airport awareness. They also serve, as needed, as points of contact and to enhance local government awareness.

The Airport Community Council will not have direct responsibilities, but will provide insight into local community issues and concerns. The committee will help the staff avoid known pitfalls in local outreach efforts. This group can also play a pivotal role in setting up any working groups, as needed. The Community Council, will also funnel ideas, issues and concerns from the local residents or user groups to the Airport staff.

The Airport Community Council is normally comprised of 10-20 individuals carefully chosen to represent the local neighbors, and homeowner associations as well as pilots and operators at Williams Gateway Airport. Airport Community Councils usually meet monthly or every other month.

A “Friends of the Airport” group

A volunteer community support group is a good way to develop positive relationships with the Airport. These support groups, frequently called Airport Friends Groups, represent and represent the airport in the community through assorted activities. Airport Friends Groups increase the effectiveness of an airport's community relations effort by sending large numbers of "goodwill ambassadors" directly into the community with the objective of promoting the positive aspects of the airport.

An Airport Users Group

Establishing an Airport Users Group at the Airport can enhance communications and understanding between the Airport and its neighbors. Because the airport tenants actually develop the User Group, getting the local pilots, airport operators and tenants involved in the Airport and community relations is the place to start.

An Airport Relations Committee at the Local Chambers of Commerce

Members of the local Chambers are often interested in the Airport, for business opportunities as well as its impact on local economy. Developing an Airport Relations Committee can be a good conduit between the Airport and local business people.

This committee can provide tours of the Airport, involve tenants in the Chambers, assist in hosting Chamber mixers at the Airport and probably most important, provide input to the Airport from the local business communities.

Increased cooperation and credibility must come from establishing positive communication with local residents. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including tours of tenant facilities, orientation flights, one-on-one conversations, invitations to pilot meetings as well as special events.

9. Neighborhood Meetings/Forums

The format of public meetings and workshops is a critical issue in any public involvement program. Specific formats are used in specific situations to accomplish goals desired for that forum. Careful consideration of format and planning for a public meeting is essential to ensure that the goals of the meeting are accomplished.

Residents near Williams Gateway Airport want more access to and communication with their public officials, particularly board members of the Airport Authority. Meetings need to be developed where these officials can comfortably meet with concerned citizens. Periodic town hall meetings are one possible forum. However, smaller forums may be more effective for both the Airport staff and the public officials to present information and to obtain important feedback from neighbors.

There are several formats that can be used for large group participation. Small group meetings can adapt aspects of these formats and in general are less formal and more issue oriented. In either case, the workshop/meeting is the pivotal element in the public involvement program and requires careful consideration and expertise to implement.

Sufficient advance notice and adequate number of mailings can become an issue at any public meeting. It is important to ensure that these issues have been properly addressed prior to the meeting and that the facilitator is skillful in moving the meeting beyond questions regarding notices. If stakeholders believe they have had sufficient opportunities to provide input and that the input has been seriously considered, many unnecessary conflicts can be avoided.

The following are but a few possible formats used for public meetings, presentations and workshops. Each of these formats is designed to maximize exchange of information and concerns. The workshops are formatted so that there is interaction between various entities providing for opportunities to better understand other interests and perspectives on a project. They are also designed to be able to obtain participant comments and input which will result in summary reports for future consideration.

Small Table Discussion Format

This format allows everyone to participate and it provides for a great deal of interaction while allowing key issues and concerns to be presented from various perspectives. It also diffuses emotions and overly heated discussions or grandstanding, keeping the focus on addressing problems and issues rather than positions.

The room is set up with round tables for small group discussions of about eight (8) people per table. In addition to a brief explanation about the workshop format, a presentation will be given by the technical consultants to help everyone understand what the task encompasses, and how the study will be conducted.

Each table will then designate a representative or spokesperson for their table. Each group will be provided with four or five tasks to discuss and prioritize. The discussion groups will convene for approximately one hour before reporting to the whole group. After table discussions, the designated representatives or spokespeople will give highlights of their group's concerns. Key comments are to be noted on easel paper for the group to review.

Comment sheets will be available for all attendees to fill out if they feel specific issues need clarification beyond what was discussed at the workshop. Spokespersons will be encouraged to hand in their group's comments as further clarification, because verbal reports will cover only the highlights.

It is up to each spokesperson to adequately represent his/her group’s issues and concerns even if it does not represent their own personal viewpoints. Comment cards will be available for greater detail. Facilitators and technical staff are available and "roaming" the room to help answer technical questions and ensure smooth flow of the process.

At the end of the workshop there are several products which are compiled in a "workshop highlights" summary report.

Small Group Discussions

Similar to the small table discussions above, the various small groups, will meet in small meeting rooms or can meet in different areas of a large meeting room. In small groups of approximately 20, a facilitator guides the group through discussion and input sessions on specific issues and questions. The facilitator solicits issues and concerns from the participants and records comments on easel paper, providing group memory.

At the end of the workshop, a spokesperson for the group reports to the entire workshop audience on their individual findings.

Round Robin Presentations

A series of meeting rooms are set up for approximately 30 people. The technical staff or consultants do “round robin” presentations in each room, 15 minutes in duration. Participants will be in the room listening to the entire series of presentations for approximately an hour and a half.

These round robin presentations can also be given in a large meeting room that would accommodate several hundred people. Six to 10 stations would be set up and the attendees would stay seated with the speakers moving them. The major drawback to this type of arrangement is distractions due to noise and people moving about.

Issue Specific Presentations

A variation on the round robin consists of a series of rooms or stations each addressing a specific aspect of the project, be it specific alternatives, or specific environmental issues such as noise or air quality. The speakers give their presentation at frequent intervals over a specified period of time and the participants listen to several of them during the workshop timeframe. In this format, participants choose which topics they want to hear and give their input and go to that location at a specific time.

"Exit surveys" are developed by the speakers in conjunction with the facilitator to obtain specific input on issues and concerns to the project. These will be tallied and become the basis of the Summary Report.

Information Fair And Exhibit

This type of workshop environment is compatible with the Round Robin and Issue Specific presentation formats. The information and exhibit format is developed around a number of exhibits/booths. While these exhibits can be stand alone and self-explanatory, they can also be manned by the various technical experts who explain aspects of their portion of the study and answer questions.

People can randomly move from exhibit to exhibit. In addition to the exhibits, there will be intermittent presentations on key topics. These will be brief in nature (10 to 20 minutes), with time for questions. These will be in the smaller room which will accommodate not more than 25 to 35 people at one time. Brief surveys and comment sheets are available at each station.

Focus Group Sessions

Small group meetings or ‘focus groups’ are often used in marketing and referred to as qualitative or exploratory research. They provide a forum for exploring the attitudes, behaviors, and motivations underlying a consumer decision. For example, focus groups are commonly used to test concepts for new products or services, to develop marketing themes and messages, and to pre-test quantitative survey instruments such as mailed questionnaires.

As part of community involvement for an airport, focus groups provide a small group forum to obtain project input, often similar to the marketing research described above.

The small size of the groups (typically eight to fifteen people), allows for in-depth exploration of issues and ideas as well as extensive two-way communication. One participant can trigger an idea or concept offered by another participant, stimulating discussion in areas not previously considered. This flexible process allows for expanded insight into the view of individuals which would not be obtained through other research methods.

A professional facilitator will ensure that one or two individuals will not dominate the discussion and that everyone has an opportunity to participate. The purpose and focus of the meeting can be tailored to meet specific audience needs.

Focus Groups are often effective forums early in a project and at key intervals during the technical program process. A series of small group meetings with key stakeholders can prove valuable prior to large public meetings to determine issues and concerns. If used effectively, these meetings can diffuse volatile issues, address misinformation and provide a sense of ownership in a project.

As a research tool, the major drawback of focus groups is that, due to their size, the results cannot be statistically projected to the whole population. The results are directional, not definitive, in nature. They are often used as a supplement to more comprehensive tools. Conclusions drawn from focus group results should be tested further through quantitative methods.

Focus groups will not tell you how many area residents are potential users of a particular service or program, or how many residents hold a particular opinion. You still need quantitative research and tracking studies for that.

As a community involvement meeting format, the primary drawback is the time required to meet with a number of groups. Another concern is whether all key interests were included in the series of meetings.

10. Public Access and Cable Television

Local Cable TV can be a valuable community involvement tool. Services available vary from station to station, but generally they offer many ways of publicizing Airport activities. Cable advertising can be considered an effective tool for publicizing community meetings. The cable company’s production staff are usually available to assist in developing still-frame ads as well as more sophisticated productions. Fees for these services are usually very reasonable and may be further discounted for local government agencies.

In addition to basic advertisements, local Cable TV stations often have community programs which provide excellent opportunities for airport tours, interviews, etc. On some stations, the local Chamber of Commerce has a weekly program. On other stations, local public officials or community leaders host programs. In either format, sponsors are anxious to have interesting topics and are likely to welcome Airport-related programs.

Possible story angles for topics regarding Williams Gateway Airport could include:

  • A tour of the Airport
  • An interview with the Airport Director
  • A visit to/with the FAA’s Air Traffic Control Tower
  • History of the Airport
  • How an Airport functions
  • Different types of aircraft located at the Airport
  • Interviews with local pilots
  • Interviews with air show/fair participants
  • What is an FBO?
  • Learning to fly
  • How local citizens are involved in the airport
  • The Airport’s noise abatement program
  • Current Airport projects

Another opportunity that most cable stations offer is video-tape production. This can be a very economical way to develop videos regarding the airport, often at half or a quarter of commercial rates. If the Airport plans to run the video as a half-hour cable program, rates can be even more competitive.

Announcing Airport meetings, participating on local cable programs and producing an Airport program are all excellent opportunities for Williams Gateway to gain visibility with local residents. It is important to take advantage of cable programs on a regular basis, not just when the Airport wants to ‘promote’ a project. Frequent visibility signifies the Airport’s commitment to the local community.

11. Direct mailings

Direct mail can play an important role in gathering input from the public. Williams has been using direct mail as a vehicle to reach neighbors through a fact sheet and with meeting noitces. Whether it is in the form of a direct request for information such as a survey, or in a more indirect way via a reply or comment card on an Airport brochure, direct mail is an important way to solicit information from any number of targeted publics.

Direct mail can be used to notify publics of Airport issues, to involve the community in airport workshops or meetings, announce Airport Days or special events, and to provide newsletters of airport issues and activities. Like any other communication device, it is important to outline the objective(s) of the mailing, to communicate in a simple and concise way, and to reach the appropriate group of people.

Compiling Direct Mail Lists

An advantage of direct mail is its ability to target specific groups; thus the importance of having complete, up-to-date mailing lists of targeted publics in your community. Williams Gateway has compiled lists and updates these lists on an ongoing basis as a primary focus to its community relations effort. If done diligently, your energy and effort in setting up meetings, analyzing public reaction to new projects and/or promoting airport efforts and accomplishments will be greatly eased. All that will need to be done is determine which publics you wish to advise or involve, and send them the direct mail piece.

As part of your information system, set up mailing lists by target audiences. Outline each individual and/or business by address, phone number and stated interest with the airport. At all airport activities and through all airport publications, solicit attendees name, address, phone number and interest in the airport and input it into the Airport’s database.

12. Web pages and the Internet

Many airports today are accessing the Internet and using the many services that are becoming available through this new technology. Williams Gateway Airport has had a website for two years and is in the process of expanding community information. Airport managers can receive almost instant communication with their city governments as well as stay in touch with airports across the country and around the world. Clipping services are available through the Internet. News groups and mail lists can also provide valuable information. Users can access developments at the FAA and other federal agencies by reading public documents.

E-mail, provided by a variety of on-line services, is becoming an essential way to stay in touch with a network of airport neighbors.

“Chat rooms” can be established for Williams’ own airport users, neighbors or others with airport interests. Many national and regional aviation organizations are using “chat rooms” for members to stay in touch and “talk” about subjects that most interest them.

One of the most important functions available through the World Wide Web is the Web site and the Home Pages to promote and educate interested individuals about specific Airport events and projects.

In the future, the Internet will play a significant role in community outreach and community involvement. Local residents will be able to become informed regarding airport activities and stay involved with the use of e-mail, “chat rooms”, home pages and access to airport and government documents. A government agency recently used teleconferencing to gain significant public input on a national issue, when workshops were not feasible. Such technology, in conjunction with use of the Internet greatly expands the possibilities for public interaction with airports in the future.

13. Media and Advertising

Positive exposure in the media is a great way to stimulate airport interest as well as enhance the Airport’s image. Williams Gateway has an on-going media program, which has produced extensive media coverage. The news media pursues stories on aviation and airports, some good and some having a negative impact.

Working With The Media Includes:

  • Becoming an industry source
  • Helping reporters find a good angle
  • Keeping meetings open to media
  • Assigning a spokesperson
  • Knowing each publication’s deadline
  • Remembering that the media will ask “what if” questions and speculate if not provided information
  • Notifying the appropriate staff or public officials if you have talked with a reporter or expect a negative story
  • Offering “experts” that can be connected to a story to help substantiate the facts
  • Remembering the Five W’s (who, what, when, where and why). They must be clear and complete
  • Being honest

Williams has established a system for handling all routine media calls. The Director of Marketing is the media spokesperson and staff is aware of communication protocols in dealing with the media.

Public Service Announcements

Another way to deliver information to the community is through public service announcements, which are accepted by both radio and television stations, but usually for charitable events. These are very similar to media releases, but shorter. Most public service announcements average 10 to 60 seconds in length and usually publicize information or events sponsored or co-sponsored by a non profit organization.

Airport’s can take advantage of public service announcements for events such as a Airport Open House. Even though public service announcements are not guaranteed to be used, there is a good chance they will be if they are written correctly and submitted by the required deadlines. Different radio and television stations accept public service announcements in different forms. Always call in advance to if they prefer a copy in script or a pre-recorded copy on tape.


Placing advertisements in local newspapers or on Cable television can be an important outreach technique to notify residents about an upcoming Airport event or Airport meeting. In addition, airports have used paid advertisements to keep local communities up-to-date on a current project or process underway. Although costly, for a half-page or full-page ad, the visibility and attention the advertisement receives can be worth the expense to clarify misinformation or involve residents in an important project.

14. Community Outreach Staff

To implement the outreach techniques discussed in this report requires fulltime staff support. At the present time, it is anticipated that one staff person will be needed to develop and implement many of the recommendations listed.

In addition to developing selected events and programs, the staff person would be responsible for the Community Response System. This staff person will also be responsible for the noise monitoring program.

Eventually, if the Airport expands, additional staff will be needed particularly in the noise abatement and noise monitoring division.

VII. Using Conflict Resolution Techniques

Conflict is defined as the existence of opposing or differing points of view. Individuals bring unique information, perceptions, values and goals to every situation. Conflict is to be expected in situations that involve more than one person. It is important to understand processes that can be used in order to resolve conflicts more effectively. There may be Airport issues or conflicts which could benefit from the expertise and experience of a professional facilitator or mediator. While a formal mediation process is not discussed in this overview, many airport issues can be facilitated through the formation of an informal working group. These groups use a form of mediation to resolve issues of concern.

Facilitating Conflict

Suggestions on facilitating conflict include:

  • Respond to frustrations and address concerns, not emotions
  • Stay focused on issues
  • Ask clarifying questions
  • Address needs rather than positions
  • Determine areas of agreement
  • Listen carefully to other perspectives
  • Review main points
  • Determine where you are stuck
  • Discourage scenarios which put one side against the other
  • Take a break

Resolution Techniques

The use of effective conflict resolution techniques is vital in today’s environment. An issue resolution process can be used in resolving conflicts of all magnitudes, regardless of whether it is an internal conflict, external, or one involving both. Conflict resolution is a process by which individuals and groups can come together to initiate dialogue and negotiate a settlement based on a collaborative effort.

The Four C’s Approach

The ‘four C’s’ approach is used to assist the Airport and Airport groups, who recognize there are issues and concerns requiring resolution and who would like to initiate a conflict resolution process, but are unsure of how to proceed. The four C’s are as follows:

  • CATALYSTS for initiating a process
  • COMMUNICATION techniques needed to gain trust
  • COLLABORATION to resolve disputes
  • COMPATIBILITY is the goal based on communication and collaboration


The catalysts element involves recognizing and responding early to problems and issues. Early warning signs are usually evident. Escalating complaints, political pressure, increasing polarization and increased frustration are a few indicators of a conflict in the making. Airport officials, community leaders and the FAA must keep in touch with the local residents. It is important to listen to community activists and be responsive to their concerns. There are usually a number of individuals in any community or industry that have a pulse on what is happening and what the temperament of their community is.

Identifying the participants who will work together to resolve the issue is an important part of the catalysts stage. Stakeholders are the ‘catalysts’ to bring about change. Determining key issues and concerns as well as establishing the potential for initiating a process are critical components of issue resolution. Representatives of all affected organizations and individuals need to be recognized and involved. Resolving airport conflicts can often be facilitated by forming a working group to study an issue and jointly develop recommendations through mediated agreement. A critical element is that each individual involved realizes that they can make a difference.


The communication element of issue resolution involves several aspects. First are the logistics for establishing a forum for effective communication. Logistics include selecting a neutral location for bringing together interested parties, establishing a comfortable setting, keeping the group size workable and selecting a facilitator or mediator who can foster trust and openness. The role of facilitator or mediator is a key ingredient in the positive resolution of an issue. Next is the actual communication process which hinges on recognizing that conflict resolution is often a long-term effort. It takes time to develop trust and credibility between conflicting interests.

The third element of communication involves the following communication phases:

  • Education
  • Brainstorming
  • Recommendations
  • Evaluation
  • Approval
  • Implementation

Education allows different interests to provide their side as other members listen. This phase is essential in order to keep the group on equal ground. The information that the members present to the rest of the group will provide a baseline and will prove indispensable as the process progresses. It may be necessary or desirable to bring in outside experts to assist in this phase.

During the brainstorming phase, new ideas for solutions can be explored. The key to success in this phase is to allow all input to be made without judging it. The facilitator should be versed in brainstorming techniques and be able to assist the committee in exploring options.

The recommendation phase is when viable alternatives are explored and evaluated. Consensus may not be necessary depending on the group involved. In some instances, it may be preferable to not insist on consensus, but instead, submit a number of feasible alternatives to the deciding party for evaluation. In either case, avoid a ‘voting’ situation. True consensus mandates that all interests stay ‘at the table’ until agreement can be reached.

When the deciding party, such as the FAA or the Airport Authority, has given their approval, an evaluation period is necessary to determine the effectiveness of the changes. It is important for the group to meet once again to evaluate the results.

Upon completion of the evaluation phase, the changes will either be fully approved and implemented, refined or further committee work may be required to develop a compatible environment. It is often desirable to keep the working group together for periodic meetings to monitor the situation. This reduces the likelihood of another crisis.


Cooperation and collaboration are important ingredients in successful negotiation and therefore conflict resolution. In situations where frustrations have accumulated, it will take time to build a trusting relationship. It will require the airport to maintain a professional attitude and display a willingness to resolve the issues. Through this collaborative attitude, trust and credibility will develop and be reflected by members of the community.

Collaboration encompasses:

  1. Acknowledging concerns of all parties involved
  2. Encouraging joint fact finding
  3. Separating the people from the problem
  4. Distinguishing interests from positions and focusing on interests
  5. Looking forward for solutions rather than focusing on the past
  6. Accepting responsibility as well as sharing ownership in the process
  7. Building trusting relationships
  8. Establishing long-term relationships


Compatibility is defined as being capable of existing or operating together in harmony. Compatibility is listed as one of the ‘four C’s’ because it represents the results of a successful conflict resolution process. In order to maintain compatibility, ongoing communication must be present between the once conflicting individuals or organizations. The catalysts stage of the conflict resolution process helps to identify conflicts and stakeholders as well as help parties to develop and maintain compatibility. This is done by recognizing and responding early to problems and issues as well as keeping in touch with the citizens and organizations affected once agreement is reached.

Important Aspects

Written guidelines, including the following, can often be helpful in keeping the group on track:

  • Develop and adopt a Statement of Intent and Commitment to the process
  • Develop ground rules by which the group will function and can rely on when needed
  • Develop a process design to assist members understand the steps to resolution
  • Draft documents can be developed by the facilitator or a committee to be discussed and approved by the entire group

Airports can survive conflicts and grow as a result. Leadership in conflict resolution requires:

  • Focusing on ‘needs’ rather than ‘wants’
  • Focusing on facts, not personalities
  • Demonstrating equality to all parties
  • Steering the parties away from a win-lose solution using a mutual gains approach

By adopting these leadership qualities and utilizing the four C’s process, effective airport managers can dispel the fears that conflict has generated in the past. Properly managed conflict will then become an opportunity, not a deterrent, to organizational growth and prosperity.

VIII. Mechanisms to Measure Success

An important element of a Community Involvement Plan will be quantifying activity results. For future community involvement efforts, monitoring the success of a program becomes essential.

To determine effective means of measuring results, the following questions need to be answered:

  • How will we know how well we are doing?
  • How will we know when to increase/change efforts?
  • How will we know when to change strategies?

As a result of these questions, measurement criteria can be developed which will be used throughout the project and will provide a critical aspect in evaluating a project or the community involvement portion as part of a final report.

The measurement criteria include the following:

  1. Identifying stakeholders
    • How many people have voiced concerns with similar issues in the past?
    • How have interest groups/individuals responded to similar issues in the past?
    • To what degree have people responded negatively to issues?
  2. Understanding stakeholders and issues
    • Who are the key stakeholders?
    • What are their concerns/issues?
    • How many are adversely impacted?
    • Frequency of comment/magnitude of concern?
    • What is their span of influence?
  3. Tracking meetings and public forums
    • Small group meetings
    • Presentations
    • Public meetings
    • One-on-one meetings with individual stakeholders
  4. Effectiveness Evaluation for Community Response Calls

    The following list offers a number of ways to monitor community concerns and gauge the effectiveness of a Community Outreach program. These statistics should be maintained over a period of time to be able to determine trends. Positive as well as negative aspects should be tracked.
    • Number of calls to the Airport’s response/complaint phone line over time
    • Number of calls by issue
    • Number of calls by geographic area
    • Number of repeat callers
    • Number of calls by diverse publics
    • Number of negative responses/concerns elevated to higher level
    • Number of responses/feedback given
  5. Use of Media
    • Number of press clippings
    • Number of Letters to the editor

Tracking these and other public opinion indicators can also provide insight into early warning signs of a problem brewing in a local community. If identified early, many conflicts can be avoided. As an example, when noise complaints escalate in a particular neighborhood, inquiries can be made to determine the reasons. Action can then be taken to resolve the issue before the situation becomes a crisis.

Another method of evaluating both the community outreach program and the public’s perception of the Airport can be achieved by periodic public opinion surveys. This kind of survey is often a random telephone survey within certain areas. If done periodically, it can be an effective measurement of the communities’ concerns as well as a “report card.”

Public relations and community relations are difficult to measure in quantitative ways. Airport staffs should be aware when concerns escalate, usually by number of attendees at Authority meetings, public meetings and number of letters to the editor. The number of calls to an Airport complaint line is another indication. Unfortunately, it is more difficult to quantify when issues are resolved or conditions are satisfactory.

It is intrinsic in the nature of an airport, that there will always be residents with concerns regarding airport operations. Complaints and concerns never go away. The goal is to make the Airport as compatible with the local communities as possible and resolve as many of the viable issues as possible.

It is also a reality that when issues are addressed and resolved, few people will give the Airport positive feedback. It is normally quantified by fewer phone calls, fewer column inches in the local papers and fewer comments at an Airport Authority meeting. It is important to note, however, that just because local residents seem to be “quiet” should not be taken as an indication to relax community efforts or cutback on programs. It is inherent in human nature to not be very vocal when things are acceptable. But if the Airport takes this as an overly positive sign and reduces emphasis on community relations, this “quiet” will turn to discontent.

IX. Conclusions

  1. It is essential to make the community outreach program an ongoing effort. There are always new neighbors, new pilots, new public officials and Airport staff. To be effective, the communications and involvement needs to be longterm.
  2. Make the best possible effort to be truthful, credible, accessible. Residents may not like every decisions but most will feel that at least the decisions were made openly and honestly.
  3. Stay in touch with your neighbors. Do more rather than less.
  4. Make the Airport their airport, the neighbors’ Airport. Involve them in the Airport and the Airport’s decisions.
  5. Keep the neighbors advised about Airport events and developments. No one likes surprises, no one likes to feel that decisions were made without any opportunity to comment or influence the decision.
  6. Share your vision for the Airport and its future.
  7. Assist the neighbors in protecting their neighborhoods so that their quality of life is protected and Airport developments do not negatively impact their lives or the local neighborhoods.

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