Category Archives: Airport funding

Inside the U.S. Airport System

Whether you’re a seasoned airport executive or a newcomer to the world of airports, this report will teach you something. The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) is the U.S. airport system’s master plan, if you will. (If you’re new to airports, here’s a good overview of what a master plan is, courtesy of our friends in Memphis).

Updated every two years, the NPIAS details (mostly) public-use airports deemed “significant” to air transportation and (here’s the really important part) eligible for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding. The report highlights planned capital development projects–terminals, taxiways, and more mundane stuff–for the next five years, and categorizes the data (.pdf) by airport type, project type, state, and more.

In short, it’s a comprehensive overview of what’s going on with the nation’s airport system.

The newest NPIAS, released October 5, includes 3,355 airports, the fewest since FAA began releasing such plans when factoring in both existing and planned facilities (see chart below). Not all public-use airports make the NPIAS–there are 5,171 public-use airports, according to FAA. This year’s NPIAS also includes 77 privately owned airports.

NPIAS airports over time

The entire report–and its Narrative section (.pdf) in particular–are worth perusing. The entire document is worth bookmarking or parking in your reference section. Here are some highlights pulled (pretty much) straight from the document:

The FAA estimates that over the next 5 years (2013 to 2017), there will be $42.5 billion of AIP eligible infrastructure projects.  This is a decrease of 19 percent ($9.8 billion) from the report issued 2 years ago and reflects a decrease in estimated needs for all airport categories and all types of airport development except projects to improve airfield capacity, which increased 2.5 percent, mostly at the large hub airports.

Sixty-three percent of the identified development is intended to rehabilitate existing infrastructure, maintain a state of good repair, and keep airports up to standards for the aircraft that use them.  Thirty-seven percent of the development in the report is intended to accommodate growth in travel, including more passengers, cargo and activity, and larger aircraft.

The 499 commercial service airports…account for 15 percent of the airports and 69 percent of the total development in this report.  Large hubs have the greatest estimated development needs, accounting for $15 billion (35 percent) of the $42.5 billion identified.

Total development needs decreased across every development category, except capacity, which saw a slight increase.

Initial takeaways from the report? Airports, responding to the challenging economic climate of the last several years, are adjusting their capital plans accordingly. That said, there’s still a lot of work ($42.5 billion of it, to be precise) to be done, because the demand for air travel–whether it be passengers, packages, or private folk bolstering business and general aviation–isn’t going away.

Access the entire report, section by section, as well as recent NPIAS reports here.

What Might Sequestration Mean for Aviation?

Earlier this month, AAAE’s Airport Legislative Alliance staff shared an article, “Oops, I Lost the Airport,” written by Scott Lilly, a recognized federal budget expert, who served as Democratic staff director for the House Appropriations Committee for a number of years.  The article detailed what threatened across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take place on January 2, 2013 as part of the “sequestration” process could mean for aviation programs should they take effect.  

In the two weeks since Lilly’s article, the discussion on what sequestration could mean for airports and the aviation industry has intensified.  Yesterday, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) hosted a press event aimed at focusing attention on the looming sequestration cuts and the impact those cuts may have on civil aviation and the FAA. AIA President (and former FAA Administrator) Marion Blakey spoke, releasing a study conducted for AIA that estimates that as many as 132,000 aviation jobs could be lost to sequestration cuts. Former DOT Secretary Norman Mineta also spoke at the event, urging Congress to act to forestall these automatic reductions.

According to AIA’s study, conducted by Econsult Corp., across-the-board budget cuts slated for January 2, 2013, under current budget law would devastate civil aviation and could cost as many as 132,000 jobs annually, in addition to $10 billion to $20 billion in slowed economic activity, and $1 billion in revenues foregone by federal state and local governments, reported the Government Executive, government’s business news daily and the premier website for federal managers and executives. 

The Government Executive article continues, stating that “Cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration budget estimated at 8.5 percent, or $1 billion annually for nine years, would disrupt travel, cargo shipping and overall economic growth unless Congress finds a solution to its current stalemate over spending and revenue issues.” 

Immediately following Secretary Mineta’s remarks Monday, Blakey recognized AAAE’s Senior Executive Vice President Todd Hauptli for his comments. Hauptli remarked that “Sequestration is a fancy word for abdication” and that “sequestration was supposed to be the Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of Congress, forcing them to act.” Hauptli noted that if sequestration takes effect in January, the FAA will have to cut a billion dollars from its budget and TSA would be forced to cut over half a billion dollars. While the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) would be exempt from sequestration cuts, cuts to other parts of the FAA budget are expected to have a significant impact on day to day operations at the agency and potentially throughout the aviation system. 

The Government Executive states that Secretary Mineta, “…bemoaned the fact that Congress, having gone four and a half years without a long-term FAA reauthorization bill, finally, after 23 short-term extensions, completed a deal this February. But ‘after all that hard work, Congress may now allow us to lose all the research needed to make our vision a reality,’ he said.” 

The article further states that Secretary Mineta said he was disturbed at how current lawmakers act as if “all spending is bad and don’t distinguish between spending on consumption and spending that is an investment. We can’t cut enough to get us into prosperity,” he added. “We tell our young people to dream big, but it takes financial resources to do it.” 

AAAE will keep members apprised of developments on sequestration and other key debates throughout the Fall.

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