Plane activity at the Monett Municipal Airport shifted during the summer months this year. Identifiable business flights hit a record high while non-business pleasure flights have fallen to a record low, largely due to the way flights are counted.
Flights are recorded by airport staff during business hours on weekdays. According to Howard Frazier, airport superintendent, unrecorded night and weekend flights significantly raise the overall totals.
Planes flying for Jack Henry and Associates and EFCO Corporation, a Pella company, totaled 371 from June 1 through September 30. Since the city began keeping records eight years ago, the only totals larger were recorded in 2005 through 2007, prior to the economic downtown.
Frazier said with return flights often coming in during evening hours, the Jack Henry and EFCO planes could well equal their daytime totals after hours.
The number of flights topped last summer's count by 30 percent, and was within 16 of the 2007 count. For the third year in a row, the number of summer flights was less than the count of January through May, but by the same margin of about 70 flights.
Other business flights in and out of Monett, from corporate jets visiting Monett offices to businesses flying to area firms and flight classes, hit a record. The 942 flights represented a 112 percent increase from a year ago and more than four times the number recorded from 2006 through 2010.
Total business flights for the four summer months was 1,313. The count represented a 56 percent increase over last year's pace and 464 more than the old record from 2005.
Flights recorded in 2012 through September total 3,072, which is 177 percent more than the last highest number recorded in 2005.
Part of this total represents a shift in how number sare being kept. Frazier said in previous years, his staff counted training flights as pleasure. Since student pilots represent a business transaction, he decided to count training flights as business instead.
This change had a profound effect on the count for non-business traffic. Pleasure flights not based in Monett totaled 318 from June through September, the lowest number in the eight years the city has counted take-offs and landings. For the last three years, these flights have numbered over 1,100 for the four-month period.
Flights not specifically identified as business, using planes kept in hangars at the Monett airport, totaled 316 for the period, down 140 or 31 percent from last year.
The total number of flights not identified as business totaled 634 for the summer, compared to 1,467 a year ago.
For the four-month summer period, the total number of flights counted at the Monett airport totaled 1,947. The total is down 15 percent from last summer but remains the second highest on record.
Frazier blamed much of the flight decline, even in the number of training flights, to the cost of fuel.
"There's not too many people out enjoying themselves at the price of fuel," Frazier said. "A lot of pleasure flights just went away. That affects the amount of aviation gasoline sales we have. Jet fuel prices are still coming up.
"Corporate flights have stayed steady," Frazier continued. "I hope we can see the price of fuel stay down. You can't budget price jumps. I think if the price of fuel stays down, everyone can get adjusted and the economy can keep coming back."