Inside the Fence

Oct. 6, 2006
As we move into the fall industry meeting season, consider a few of the issues ...

As we move into the fall industry meeting season, consider a few of the issues ...

Kate Lang, 'acting' associate administrator for airports for FAA, thinks it may be time to rethink how we look at funding. Specifically, she asks if we should reconsider how we fund general aviation facilities. She points out that for commercial airports we have five categories — large, medium, small, non-hub, and non-primary — for calculating entitlements [Airport Improvement Program grants]. That's some 500-600 airports.

"For general aviation, which is some 2,900 airports, we have one category — a non-primary. It's $150,000 for non-primary airports, whether or not you're a Teterboro or an airport with ten-based aircraft," says Lang.

"You know, with some of these high-end relievers, our standards requirements are as sophisticated as with very busy medium or large hub airports. Yet, we treat them as if they were identical on an entitlement basis."

Lang questions if that philosophy will serve the industry well as very light jets enter the system and the air taxi market threatens to take on a new dimension. Asks Lang, "Do we have to be more strategic as we think about taking care of general aviation? The nature of the GA aircraft is changing."

A good question; an appropriate observation.

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Meanwhile, on the airline servicing end, a debate ensues ... or, a battle brews. Airports are under pressure to be self-sustaining, to find new sources of revenue, and most importantly to maintain airline air service to their communities (see Inside the Industry).

FBOs and airline service companies want to make a profit. They don't like the idea of an airport coming in to compete with them for business, even if it's the low-margin airline variety. At some smaller airports, this is (rapidly) becoming an issue. Airports are scrambling to cater to airlines, to the point of getting into airline services in an attempt to reduce costs to the carriers. It's reached a point that AAAE has formed a sister association to meet the training, informational, and lobbying needs of an evolving group of airports that see a need or opportunity with serving the air carriers (see Fueling/Lineops/Safety).

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Finally, Lang says scuttlebutt about her departure from FAA is mere conjecture. She's staying, she says. Welcomed news for those who like the idea that AIP funds are being disseminated by someone who understands the system, top to bottom.

Thanks for reading.