General aviation airports are not using most of their available FAA grant money because of constraints on how the funds can be spent, and AOPA contends the restrictions should be loosened. Last year, 2,950 non-primary airports in the U.S.—the majority of them GA-only facilities—used only a quarter of the $442 million in Non-Primary Entitlement (NPE) grant funds available to them.
The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) gives each non-primary airport $150,000 annually. Funds not used are returned to the AIP discretionary fund for immediate re-allocation, often to commercial-service airports. “As a result, hundreds of millions of NPE dollars are not being spent on their intended purpose: to help small GA airports, mostly in rural America,” AOPA president and CEO Mark Baker told the Senate aviation subcommittee last week.
FAA rules allow NPE grants to roll over for up to four years, meaning an airport can potentially bank up to $600,000. But unused money is lost. In some cases, communities cannot pay the 10 percent match required to access the funds, Baker said. In others, the grants are not enough to cover eligible projects.
AOPA does not favor eliminating the local match but suggests that it could be reduced or paid over time, Baker said. Making revenue-generating projects, such as hangar construction, eligible for grant funding could also help ease the financial burden, he said.