It’s almost impossible to walk across the tarmac of the Roswell International Air Center without imagining the possibilities, the potential that exists there to help craft a best-possible future for the city and its people.
And to do so by building on Roswell’s own history and unique place in the world: The home to what was, during the Cold War, the largest base in the U.S. Strategic Air Command — a city that enjoys a past and present steeped in aviation history — has the potential for a future that involves expanding and maximizing the assets of the airport operating from that long-closed base.
So, not a changed city as much as one that might be finding again its best possible path forward.
That’s helped by a new law that paves the way for creation of a regional air authority to oversee and ultimately grow the air center.
Of course, it’s easy to think of things looking up when surrounded by a bunch of aviators, like those who attended last week’s welcome event at the airport for the U.S. Navy’s Training Wing Four.
The training wing, which arrived here Jan. 20, will rotate in 100 student pilots — future Navy and Marine Corps aviators — along with instructors and mechanics during a stay in Roswell expected to last until the end of March. The former air base’s facilities and the region’s weather make this an ideal spot for training flights this time of year.
The large group of flight-suited trainees gathered in a hangar for the event, not far from their T-6B Texan military training aircraft lined up on the runway outside — all against the backdrop of the airport’s regular hustle and bustle, takeoffs and landings — offered perhaps a very small glimpse into the airport’s past as a military installation. A very small glimpse.
The welcome event for the pilots was one of many that have taken place, or are planned, during their stay in Roswell, reflecting the importance to the community of having them here. The presence of the training wing benefits the city in any number of ways. As evidenced by such gatherings, signs posted around town and other gestures of goodwill, it’s appreciated.
And it seems appropriate that after having been absent from Roswell the past few years, they have returned here now, during what has so far been a season of good news related to the air center.
The biggest: Passage of New Mexico House Bill 229, the Regional Air Center Special Economic District Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month.
Her predecessor had vetoed last year similar legislation despite overwhelming approval then by both the House and Senate.
A lot of work has gone into bringing the air center to this point — and as some have noted, much work remains before the fruits of those labors are visible.
This is a city most have heard of and that many people from areas far and wide find a reason to visit. It’s a place fortunate enough to already have established a number of productive industries, such as agriculture, energy and tourism.
But if there’s a spot in Roswell that leaves one with the impression only the surface has been scratched, it’s the air center, where many see the potential for an economic engine that will benefit the area for generations.
The new law offers a runway. It remains up to local officials to now construct an airworthy craft and set it on the best possible flight path, for Roswell and the region.
John Dilmore is editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are those of the author.