Archive for Monday, March 6, 2006

Economic benefits from GlobalFlyer still waiting to be realized in Salina

March 6, 2006


— Salina has yet to reap much economic benefit from investing time, money and energy into Steve Fossett's aviation 2005 milestone, when he became the first to fly solo, nonstop around the world without refueling.

But Dennis Kuhlman, dean of Kansas State University-Salina, which housed mission control for Fossett's Salina-based Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer's 2005 project, said benefits can be measured in other terms.

"When I want to go to (Washington) D.C. or go see somebody at NASA, I can get in now," he said. "A year later, it's still something that people want to know about."

A select group of 11 Kansas State students joined mission control and the ground crew for the 2005 project. More than 100 students were involved.

The experimental jet aircraft, the GlobalFlyer, was piloted back to Salina on Feb. 25, after Fossett used it again this year to set a solo, distance flight record. It's housed, for free, in a hangar at the airport and will remain there unless Fossett decides to make additional flights or put it on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Salina Area Chamber of Commerce President Gerald Cook also says more concrete payoffs are likely in the future. He places the value of the worldwide exposure at $50 million to $100 million.

"It's worth a terrific amount to the community to have been the location for this," he said. "It will pay dividends, but over a period of time."

Salina Airport Authority Executive Director Tim Rogers said that in more than 20 years with the airport authority, he has never seen the interest in Salina so high.

The airport authority invested $118,000 and the chamber threw in $20,000. Lesser amounts came from law enforcement and volunteer hours.

The city is now hoping to lure aviation businesses.

"We have 18 companies that are on the active list right now," Cook said. "I'm not sure that even a few of them would be looking if not for that notoriety."


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