Based on the University's financial reports (http://www.obfs.uillinois.edu/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=919122), Willard cost $4.8M to operate in fiscal year 2008. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airports_in_Illinois), there were 98K enplanements (roundtrip passenger) in 2008. That works out to just under $50 per enplanement. It looks like you can take a Greyhound bus to Bloomington for about $35 roundtrip. A savings of $15 per passenger times nearly 100K passengers per year could save the customers nearly $1.5M per year. That would represent a just under 40% increase in use at Bloomington which might increase their costs somewhat but presumably those would be offset by increased customer base to spread those costs across and lower ticket prices resulting from more passengers using the facility, assuming the facility could handle the increased traffic without requiring a major expansion. Based on my limited experience, BMI is not operating at full capacity currently, however, so I would suspect that with the proper scheduling they could absorb this increase.
So here are the questions: Would it be a good idea to close Willard, particularly in light of the pending end to the University's aviation program and therefore its justification for maintaining ownership of a commercial airport? Should resources currently expended to attract and retain customers and airlines be consolidated and focused to Bloomington, just an hour away, perhaps with BMI even offering direct bus service from Illinois Terminal to coincide with flights? Or is the benefit of a local airport to the community and area businesses great enough to pay the extra costs and avoid the hourlong commute for 200K passenger-trips per year? What do you think?