A Program Guidance Letter, which addresses how FAA plans to implement the non-primary airport entitlements, was mailed out last month. "We worked with NASAO to make sure everybody thought we had come up with a common sense approach to the implementation," Catherine Lang, FAA’s director of airport planning & programming, says. "It’s challenging. We’re going to be dealing with almost 2,000 airports who are eligible to receive an entitlement grant for the first time," she adds. Grants will range from $1,000 to 150,000. The agency, both directly and in working with the states, is contacting the airports to inform them if they are eligible, what projects are eligible, what they need to do to make application to use the funds, and a basic outline of sponsor assurance requirements, Lang explains. "We’re being very aggressive to make sure everybody knows if they qualify under the new law."
NASAO officials remind states and their airports that there are no guarantees with the AIR-21 funding monies.
"I have no idea how AIR-21 is going to turn out except that AIP is theoretically fully funded, but we’ll see when we get there. I’ll be confident it was a good bill when we’ve spent the money," says Henry Ogrodzinski, NASAO president and CEO.
Leonard says the organization will continue to work for additional AIP funding. "We will certainly be out during the year educating the members of the transportation appropriations committee and anybody else we need to work with on the Hill, the House, Senate, and aviation subcommittees in support of the funding," she says.
Many states are also realizing that getting their legislators and government officials involved in aviation may help pave the way to additional funding. Leonard encourages state and airport officials to invite their legislators to events such as the annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s show in Oshkosh, WI, or the annual National Business Aviation Association conference. "It affords them an opportunity to meet with their constituents," she says.
Another strategy Leonard encourages is for states to continue sharing their economic impact studies with their state legislators. "It’s important for them to see that it’s an impact on the community," she adds.
Ogrodzinski, putting the importance of AIP funding into perspective, says, "Every Friday afternoon we close Wall Street... If we did that with our airports, general aviation and commercial alike, this country’s economy would grind to a halt."
FAA Issues AIP Guidelines
Last month FAA sent out a memorandum regarding AIR-21 provisions that affect funding for non-primary airports. Below are excerpts of the Program Guidance Letter’s guidelines on those changes.
AIR-21, section 104 (f), amends the Title 49, United States. code,
section 47117 (e)(1), to establish a new reliever airport set-aside
when the total annual amount made available for the AIP (Airport
Improvement Program) is $3.2 billion or more.
Parameters for this reliever set-aside include annual operations (more than 75,000), landing distance (5,000 feet), based aircraft (100 or more), precision instrument procedures (localizer and glide slope unit, microwave landing system, or interim standard micro-wave landing system), and delay for commercial passenger aircraft at the airport relieved (20,000 hours annually).
We recommend that there should be a discussion of the basic provisions of AIP eligibility, funding plans, and assurances with which the airport will be required to comply. Airports should not receive a grant for any year when no work is required.
It is important that FAA procedures typically applied to projects should not unnecessarily impede the issuance of smaller grants to non-primary airports. For example, an airport may want to use its entitlement for pavement maintenance or a similar eligible purpose and not have funds available to develop an extensive airport layout plan.
If a location or sponsor decides to carry over its entitlement as a result of the annual Federal Register notice, conversions of those funds to discretionary funds for other uses do not deprive the location or sponsor of those funds in the future.
A state may sponsor airport development projects at one or more airports within its boundaries if the sponsor gives its written consent and we find that there is administrative merit and aero-nautical benefit.
There may be a number of airports that have never had a financial relationship under the AIP, or have not had one in many years, who will now qualify for the entitlement under this program. Regions should actively contact eligible airports as soon as possible. This contact should advise the sponsor of the potential entitlement and provide basic information regarding requirements.
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The grant will provide for the replacement of runway pavement and extend the runway to meet the needs of aircraft using the airport. The project will begin this fall.