An FAA program to buy private airport development rights is targeting “troubled airports” that the agency believes could be at risk for sale to developers or other possible means of closure. According to AOPA, the federal pilot program is similar to one in New Jersey that has been successful in acquiring development rights and preserving airports there. AOPA said that of some 5,400 public-use airports in the country, 1,154 are privately owned–many by family businesses that are in their second or third generation. For those facilities that are struggling financially, “selling the property to a developer can look very attractive,” said AOPA. The association believes the New Jersey program has potential at the federal level.
The FAA program has initially targeted 10 airports to ensure their long-term survival. Under the program, the FAA would grant money to states to purchase the development rights from the owners. The sale is meant to compensate the owner appropriately for the development rights and ensure that the airport remains an airport under covenants signed by the owners.
Part of the process involves establishing the value of the airport property, its development rights and what the property would be worth if converted to residential, commercial or industrial use. Comparing the value of the property as an airport, the FAA then decides whether it would be less expensive to purchase development rights or buy the airport outright.
The FAA can contact airport owners directly, or owners can petition the agency to participate in the program. The FAA will evaluate each proposal and identify those facilities best suited to purchase of development rights.