November 23, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA and other industry groups are working with the FAA as it develops a new classification system for general aviation airports. The agency is conducting a year-long study that seeks new, expanded GA airport categories for use in a national integrated systems plan.
The classification study, which began in January 2011, is considering replacing the two current classifications—general aviation and reliever—with as many as five that would provide more definition of airport services and activities in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Airports included in the NPIAS are considered significant to national air transportation and therefore eligible for federal airport improvement grants.
Adopting additional classifications would parallel the method by which the FAA categorizes commercial-service airports, said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy.
A final report, scheduled for release in January 2012, is expected to contain a complete and categorized list of almost 3,000 airports, and detailed descriptions of the new categories. That information also will appear in the 2012 NPIAS Report to Congress, to be published next fall.
AOPA’s focus in discussing the study with the FAA has been to emphasize the importance of every kind of GA airport in the national airports system. Association staff told the FAA that it is important for the report’s final version of the classification system to make clear that each of these airports makes an important contribution to aviation and its home community.
“The FAA intends for this to be a useful tool to help tell an individual airport's story as well as explain what general aviation as a whole provides for the nation,” Pecoraro said. “AOPA has appreciated the FAA Airports team’s willingness to include us in their discussions and provide us with opportunities to comment on the study as it takes shape.”
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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