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“Danger zone”

On the home page of the Coos Bay/North Bend airport web site, there’s a neat UTube showing the three and a half minutes or so leading up to land at the airport, showing the landscape around, the sea, the roads – it’s a little hypnotic. There’s a theme song, too, Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”

Which has some applicability at this point, since a danger zone is what the community seems to be moving into.

The Oregonian on Sunday ran a useful perspective on how smaller regional airports are rapidly losing their commercial flights. The focus was on the long-standing Pendleton-Portland run, which looks to be going away; and this does mark a sea change. But at least, Pendletonians, who are in decent driving distance from Walla Walla or (a bit further) the Tri-Cities, won’t be totally cut off; flights to Walla Walla apparently will continue, possibly as well as elsewher.

Consider though the Coos Bay/North Bend area, a couple of hours by car from any community much larger than itself and separated from almost all by mountains. This small coastal metro really is almost as remote as you get for a community of its size in the Northwest. But it has had a solid commercial airport, the only one on the Oregon Coast.

Its airline, its only airline at present, is Horizon Air/Alaskan, which has had regular flights to Portland – an important link. As of October 11, that flight will go away (the same day, Klamath Falls-Portland, to another community nearly as remote, will end). The reasons given by the airline, which seem understandable, involve the cost of fuel and the need to run more efficient (larger) planes which won’t come close to filling seats at the smaller airports. The logic is there; the decision is not irrational.

The other truth, of course, is that this news is horrendous for the community, for businesses, for individuals, for a wide range of interests. Try growing your businesses in a remote community without commercial air service; you won’t find it easy. Business leaders were quick to try to find a way to retain the flight (and meet with the airline), but how, really, could they persuade?

In the absence of answers, the suffering begins. We will be seeing more of it before long.

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