By: John L. Hummer
This article ran in various newspapers prior to the county wide election to fund spaceport America.
If you are someone who doubts a commercial space industry can be developed in Southern New Mexico or doubts such an industry can inspire and change the lives of future generations of children to pursue aerospace related careers, just think about Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This is considered the birthplace of aviation and where Wilbur and Orville Wright made the historic and successful manned flights, December 17, 1903.
I would bet, following this historic flight, there were skeptics throughout the townships surrounding Kitty Hawk that laughed at the very thought of commercial aviation, let alone the development of an aircraft industry in North Carolina. So many unanswered questions. They were wrong about the future of aviation but were right about North Carolina leading the development of an aircraft industry. It was North Carolina’s failure to seize the opportunity and create a vibrant aircraft industry in the very birthplace of modern aviation.
However, 80 years ago, over one thousand miles to the west, in the then tiny town of Wichita, Kansas, a group of entrepreneurs and civic leaders saw and believed in the future of air travel. Clyde Cessna, founder of Cessna Aircraft, did what many said “could not” be done – build a monoplane with a full cantilever design – that is one without supporting struts or braces. When the Cessna All Purpose plane took off August 13, 1927, the aviation world was forever changed. In 1932, in Wichita, Walter H. Beech founded Beechcraft and launched the model 17 airplane. These are but just two pioneers of the aircraft industry in Wichita which is prominently known as the “Air Capital of the World.”
Wichita was my hometown. Growing up, I came to know families whose lives were inspired by the aircraft industry and, as a result, created generational opportunities for themselves and their children. Many of these Kansas families transitioned from rugged, low paying, farm work to the new, and at the time (1920’s), “risky” aircraft industry and making planes for wealthy people to purchase and fly. Sound familiar? This community took risks. They knew there were questions yet to be answered and tackled as they ventured down this path of hope and prosperity. This is what encourages me when thinking about the future aerospace industry in Southern New Mexico and the positive impact it will have to lift up our community.
How crazy was it in the 1920’s to think that a small farming town in Kansas would become the single largest producer of private aircraft? North Carolina lost the opportunity. Wichita seized upon the opportunity. And yes, over the past 80 years the community of Wichita implemented various publicly funded and/or subsidized programs and incentives to support the growth of the industry as did federal dollars (our tax dollars) via the FAA and other municipalities.
I truly believe that our opportunity in Southern New Mexico is less risky than Wichita’s vision in the 1920’s. We have all the attributes needed for a commercial space industry. Those attributes being our ideal climate, open space, low density population, high elevation and an existing history in rocket propulsion via White Sands Missile Range. It is my hope that 100 years from now, Las Cruces, NM will be a focal point for aerospace aviation. We have made a step in the right direction with Spaceport America.
To learn more about Spaceport America, go to: http://spaceportamerica.com/
About the Author: John Hummer served as Co-Chairman, along with Bill McCamley, People for Aerospace, the political action committee that organized, developed and operated the successful get-out-the-vote campaign which lead to the passage of a new Dona Ana County gross receipts tax to fund Spaceport America. He is also the Owner/Qualifying Broker of Steinborn Inc. Real Estate.