Rethinking GA Airports – Part 2 É
June 28, 2010
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  • By John F. Infanger

    É NATA president Jim Coyne offers his thoughts on FAA acting associate administrator for airports Kate Lang’s opinion that the agency and industry ought to give serious thought to the role general aviation airports play in the system, particularly from a funding standpoint – subject of this blog two weeks ago. That is, it isn’t necessarily about the number of based aircraft on an airfield, or perhaps even about the number of operations (though, obviously, that can be a significant factor). More important, says Lang, it’s about the role that the airport plays in its community.

    Her question: How do we evaluate that role from a funding standpoint?

    During a recent interview with the National Air Transportation Association’s Coyne, I asked what he thought about Lang’s assertion that a rethink might be in order, one that would have heavy industry input. His thoughts É

    “You could look at it two ways,” he says. “It’s a truism that there’s a tremendous variety of airports. They’re important to their towns – be it economic development; medical; tourism. And, there are other airports that may have once been valuable but may not play the same role today.

    “It’s a little unfair to take a snapshot from one moment in time and say that an airport is going to be cast in concrete with that categorization. It may be something that creates its own destiny. The FAA should underscore differences. But not all airports are easily categorized.

    “The other thing I hate is that sometimes bureaucrats – though that’s certainly not a criticism of Kate Lang – they like to sometimes put things into boxes to easily categorize them. For example, look at the Gulf [oil] disaster – small airports there have a heightened importance that might not have been appreciated before the disaster.

    “On the other hand, if an airport has a lot of business traffic, and major corporations depend on it, or it’s essential to tourism, then clearly it deserves to be underlined and given preference.

    “I would generally support Kate on this. She has a lot of scars from having to defend how we fund airports, such as when USA Today decides to take a shot at something. She really knows how important an airport is to, say, an island off Alaska and to that state, for example. I have confidence she’ll probably do it the right way.”

    I hear Lang speak at various conferences throughout the year, and for the past two she has been hitting on this topic. It’s a hot button for her, and the fact that she continually highlights it suggests she feels a frustration at

    800 Independence Avenue

    when funding decisions are being made. She wants more criteria, more definition – more justification. Not necessarily to make the FAA’s job easier, but to give it more clarification to ensure that the money being disseminated is hitting the right airports.

    As Coyne suggests (and I doubt Lang would argue), it’s all about a formula. Both, it seems, are suggesting it’s not that simple. Must be time for the GA industry to chime in É one thing is for sure, the top level at the FAA’s airports division is listening, and NATA at least is on board with the concept.

    Thanks for reading. Jfi

    Date: 2010-06-09