The Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) was initially authorized in December 2003 as part of the Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. In October 2005, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) executed a contract with the National Academies, acting through its Transportation Research Board (TRB), to serve as manager of ACRP. Michael R. Salamone has served as manager of ACRP since 2006, having served in airport management roles in Burlington and Des Moines, IA. Recently, AIRPORT BUSINESS interviewed Salamone for an update on the program. Following are edited excerpts ...
AIRPORT BUSINESS: Since your funding is subject to Congressional direction, how has the impasse on the Hill in recent years affected ACRP?
Salamone: The program was authorized for $10 million for 2006 through 2008. The $10 million was extended by continuing resolution into 2009. The Administration is recommending a jump to $15 million per year, which both Houses support. Even though authorization is still at $10 million, the continuing resolution bumped it to $15 million in 2009 and 2010. As a result, 40 new research topics were approved.
AB: Has funding been adequate?
Salamone: As a practical matter, when we go out to the industry and ask for problem statements or research ideas, invariably we get more than we can address. Not all of the ideas are a priority for the industry. The fact that we get more ideas than we have funds means that we can prioritize them and allocate the funds we do get to the highest priority projects. That’s probably appropriate.
The other thing is, the increase of funding to $15 million is going to pose a logistical problem, so we’re staffing up to accommodate more projects than we’ve had in the past.
AB: Where does most of the money go?
Salamone: Seventy-five percent of the costs goes directly to the research projects; the 25 percent that we retain pays for the publication expenses; the panels. We have a volunteer panel that oversees every project that we have; a different panel for each project; they’re topic experts. They in turn scope out the research approach for this. We draft together an RFP [request for proposal]; proposals then come in, and the panel reviews and selects the best ones. During the course of the research, the panel reviews all the deliverables and ultimately reads the first draft of the report before we go into publication. All of that — including the publication costs, the panel costs, the panel travel costs — comes out of our 25 percent.
AB: The program relies on volunteers from industry. What is expected of them?
Salamone: First off, the request for volunteers is sent out once a year. What we do when we’re talking with them when forming panels, we discuss the time requirement. There’s no preparation necessary; you come to the first meeting armed with the knowledge and experience that you already possess.
The first meeting is a two-day meeting. We scope the research need and how we might wish a contractor to do it. Everybody’s in the room; it’s a requirement.
At the end of that meeting, almost without fail, we have an RFP. As a result, an RFP is issued; proposals come in; we do a review; and then we send all of those proposals back out to the panel. Our average had been seven proposals per project; this past year the average went up to nine.
When we come together for the second meeting, we have a day-long debate and when we’re done we have selected a proposal that we’re going to proceed with for the contractor.
Once it is under contract, we will have interactions with each member of group, mainly through teleconferences or email exchanges. The contractor now is following the guidance given in the RFP; the panel reviews the results.
At the midpoint of a project we have one final meeting; the panel meets with the research team. The panel has one day to express their thoughts and give feedback to the contractor.
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