The letter noted that general aviation airports in the United States are “economic engines” responsible for 1.1 million jobs and $219 billion in economic output, but many of those airports “have not been able to fully utilize their federal airport grants” needed to fund infrastructure projects.
Many public GA airports are allocated $150,000 every year to fund projects through the Non-Primary Entitlement (NPE) program. But to access those dollars, airports and their communities must provide up to a 10-percent match. Additionally, airports are permitted to roll-over their NPE funds for up to four years.
In 2016, 75 percent of the $440 million in NPE funds were carried over to the FAA discretionary fund and reallocated to other projects, many of which were at non-NPE airports, and over the past 10 years more than $2 billion in NPE funding has been turned down by their intended airports and reallocated to others.
The FLIGHT Act lowers the required local 10-percent match to 5 percent, increases the number of years NPE airports can carry-over funding from four to five years, and ensures that any carry-over funding is allocated to projects at NPE airports rather than elsewhere.
The letter says these changes would give the FAA “long overdue flexibility, within existing budget parameters, to fund important airport infrastructure projects at general aviation and small airport facilities.”
The letter also pointed out that the bill’s proposed five-year public-private partnership pilot program to encourage private-sector investment at local airports would “help many cash strapped communities and go a long way in helping replace aging facilities and develop airports for the future.”
Finally, the groups said the legislation, “recognizes the important role airports play by providing access to funding for emergency planning activities and equipment, or facilities.”
In addition to AOPA, the letter was signed by the Air Care Alliance, Airport Council International, Aircraft Electronics Association, Alliance for Aviation Across America, American Association of Airport Executives, American Bonanza Society, Cessna Flyer Association, Cessna Pilots Society, Commemorative Air Force, Emergency Volunteer Air Corps, Experimental Aircraft Association, Flight School Association of North America, Flying Physicians Association, General Aviation Manufacturing Association, Glasair Aircraft Owners Association, Helicopter Association International, International Council of Air Shows, Lancair Owners and Builders, Mooney Summit, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Business Aviation Association, NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots, Northern WV Pilot Association, Piper Flyer Association, United States Parachute Association, and Veterans Airlift Command.