The Airport and Airways Improvement Act of 1982 established The Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which continues to fund airport development today. The program originated from the Federal Airport Act of 1946, which was the first serious effort designed to create a system of national airports like the National Highway System. According to the FAA, today’s Airport Improvement Program seeks to provide safety and efficiency upgrades to airports through the use of federal grants.
Across the United States, the FAA awards Airport Improvement Program grants directly to large airports based on passenger use. At the same time, grants for public-use General Aviation (GA) and Reliever Airports are issued at the state level based on FAA guidelines. According to the FAA, to be eligible for a grant an airport must be included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, or NPIAS.
AIP grants are based on the need for airport planning, further development, adding capacity, or to ensure noise compatibility. These grants are typically given based on the need for projects aimed at improving individual airport or state-wide efficiency and maintenance. According to the FAA, AIP funds can be used on most capital improvements at an airport or necessary repairs and in some cases on terminals, hangars, and non-aviation related facility developments.
Funding for AIP grant comes from almost entirely from The Airport and Airways Trust Fund. The fund derives revenue from taxes and fees levied on airplane operations, which include taxes on airplane tickets as well as fuel used by general aviation aircraft. Under AIP funding, 90 percent of the cost comes from Federal sources, with 10 percent being split between state and local governments.
Recently, funding for AIP has been reduced from $3.5 billion to $3.35 billion. Airports represent a vital connection for communities across the country, and have face rising costs associated with construction. AIP funding at the previous level of $3.5 billion is necessary to maintain airport infrastructure and keep up with investment needs.