Federal airport grants are not only enabling small airports to flourish but also protecting others from shuttering, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen told lawmakers last week, stressing these grants must be protected.
In testimony for a House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investment in our Nation’s Airports Matters,” Bolen highlighted the importance of maintaining the national network of 5,000 airports, saying it provides the foundation for general aviation to thrive. Noting missions ranging from transport of people and equipment, support of natural disasters, and air medical flights, among others, he said, “The cost of doing nothing is too great and without continued investment in airport infrastructure the future of our country is grim.”
Annual airport needs tally approximately $7 billion, but Airport Improvement Program grants are only covering less than half of that, a little more than $3 billion annually. States and local communities do not have the resources to fully cover airport costs, he added.
Further, federal funds come with grant obligations that protect the national aviation infrastructure, Bolen said. “Unfortunately, there have been a number of communities that have made attempts to impose restrictions limiting access, such as curfews, weight, and noise limits, on their airports, attempting to gain local control of what is part of a national aviation-transportation system,” he said.
He pointed to Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport in Detroit, Michigan, as an example of an airport that is falling into disrepair without federal funding or local support. East Hampton Airport in New York and Reid-Hillview Airport in California, meanwhile, are foregoing funds and threatening to close, he added.
However, airports that are receiving grants are greatly benefitting, Bolen said. “Not only are these airports able to maintain their facilities to meet the FAA’s standards, but many are also expanding their runways and are acquiring land for development to meet growing demand and to maintain efficiency, procure latest equipment and technology and are complying with federal regulations, providing unrestricted access to all users.”
More than 40 airports extended runways using AIP funding last year, he noted, citing Ormond Beach, Florida; Gooding, Idaho; and Jeffersonville, Indiana among the examples.