Report misses mark, funding critical for GA airports

October 31, 2012

AOPA believes that federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for general aviation airports should be preserved because of the important role these airports play within the national air transportation system. This is in stark contrast with a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution that recommends cutting the AIP mandatory spending floor for GA airports.

The report, released Oct. 25, focuses on international commercial air travel, noting that growth in international passengers during a 21-year period more than doubled the increase in domestic passengers. The report recommends that airports serving these flights should receive a greater share of government aid at a cost to GA airports nationwide. These redirected AIP funds would be above and beyond what large airports are already collecting through passenger facility charges.

"General aviation airports are used by businesses of all sizes to generate opportunities and create growth in communities that aren't easily accessible by commercial aviation,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “It is vital that AIP funding for small and non-hub airports remain in place to help pay for critical infrastructure projects. These airports are a lifeline to communities across the United States that rely on general aviation for disaster relief, emergency medical transportation, and basic services like law enforcement and fire-fighting.”

The network of GA airports across the country also infuses both urban and rural areas with much-needed tax revenue and jobs. According to the FAA, in 2009 (the last year for which figures are available) non-airline operators at GA airports spent more than $12 billion, making an estimated 27 million flights for emergency medical services, agricultural functions, time-sensitive air cargo services, fire-fighting, law enforcement and border control, flight training, business travel, and some scheduled services.

In the same study, the FAA also noted that “having a well-developed system of GA airports throughout the country supports commerce while also providing a safety net of airports to support emergency aircraft diversions when necessary due to mechanical problems, medical emergencies, deteriorating weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances.”