FAA Charts Course for GA Airports
Building on a study called “General Aviation Airports: A National Asset,” the FAA said it will use the information to give the general public a better understanding of GA airports in the community and within the national air transportation system, and how they serve the public interest.
The FAA conducted the 18-month study to enumerate the many diverse functions of GA airports. The analysis lists 2,455 GA airports (from a total of 2,952) based on their existing activity levels–national, regional, local and basic.
“GA airports can serve many different functions and advance the public interest, ensuring that Americans nationwide have access to medical flights, search-and-rescue, disaster relief, aerial firefighting, law enforcement, community access, commercial and industrial activity, flight instruction and air cargo,” the study said.
The categories reflect the current aviation activity at each facility, such as the number and type of based aircraft, number of passenger boardings and the type of flights. “National” airports give communities access to national and international markets; “regional” airports connect communities to statewide and interstate markets; “local” airports provide access to intrastate and interstate markets; and “basic” airports link communities with the national airport system and support general aviation activities.
The FAA plans to study the remaining 497 GA airports to better understand their role, the agency said. That process will begin this fall with meetings with airport sponsors and state aeronautic divisions to identify the activities that these airports support and how they support the public interest.
According to the FAA, the study does not affect an airport sponsors’ eligibility to receive federal funding, and does not remove any airports from the federal five-year planning document called the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). The agency said it will incorporate the findings of a follow-on study into existing GA airport guidance.
The report points out that GA airports do more than relieve congestion at other airports, and in 2009 contributed $38.8 billion to the economy. Christa Fornarotto, FAA associate administrator for airports, said the agency undertook the study “to examine the roles that general aviation airports play in our national aviation system to ensure we plan to invest wisely.”
The FAA worked with state aeronautical agencies, aviation associations, aviation user groups, airport directors, airport authorities, airport planners, academia, other federal agencies and local councils of government. Primary GA groups included NBAA, AOPA, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Airport Coalition, General Aviation Manufacturers Association and National Air Transportation Association. Other participants were Airlines for America, Airport Consultants Council, Airports Council International North America, Alliance for Aviation Across America, American Association of Airport Executives and Regional Airline Association.
The FAA said it is particularly grateful to the National Association of State Aviation Officials for its partnership and support in the effort, including helping to facilitate discussions with state aeronautical agencies nationwide.
“We applaud the local communities for their continuing support and commitment to aviation,” said Fornarotto. “While this report has given us a good foundation and starting point, we recognize that more work needs to be done.”
The FAA will continue to identify general aviation airports that are important to the national transportation system through the formulation of the NPIAS. Future reports to Congress, starting with the 2013-2017 NPIAS report, will incorporate the new GA airport categories developed in the latest report.
In addition, as required by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FAA reauthorization), the FAA will evaluate the formulation of NPIAS and provide Congress with a report on the findings.