September 20, 2013

Ohio transportation officials continue their work on a multi-pronged study – launched in September 2012 – to determine how best to allocate available funding for upgrades at Ohio’s 97 community airports.

The Ohio Airports Focus Study, being conducted by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Office of Aviation, in conjunction with the FAA, seeks to assess the economic contributions of these airports, so that a framework can be developed for prioritizing federal and state money to areas with the greatest need, at a time when budget cutbacks have severely curtailed available funding.

“Areas with an efficient transportation system help attract businesses to the region, and to some businesses, airports are just as important as highways are,” said ODOT spokesperson Steve Faulkner. “This survey helps our department look at these assets and identify areas for improvement that will result in the greatest benefit and improved accessibility for all users.”

Improved runways and taxiways, upgraded instrument-approach procedures and air traffic control facilities, and greater compliance with homeland security directives are among the areas where officials are hoping to realize the greatest benefits from the study, Faulkner added.

As part of ODOT’s examination of the issue, a recent, second round of public meetings was held to solicit feedback from airport managers and users, economic development organizations and other groups.

When completed in summer 2014, the Ohio Airports Focus Study will place each of Ohio’s public-use airports into one of five categories, ranging from large commercial facilities served by FAR Part 121 operations, to the smallest single-runway airports operating without instrument approaches.

Among the factors considered in those rankings are an airport’s proximity to population centers, traffic figures and an airport’s economic impact on the surrounding communities. Business aviation plays a critical role in the state’s determination of that last metric, said Ohio Regional Business Aviation Association president Mark Myers.

“The focus group has specifically identified business aircraft operators as a driving force behind the study, and an important factor to encouraging airports to participate,” he said. “Since this study will directly determine the economic impact from each airport, and that will in turn drive where funding is allocated, it’s extremely important to understand the contributions of business aviation operations at these facilities.”

NBAA Central Region Representative Bob Quinn noted that other states, such as Missouri, have launched similar studies to garner comments from stakeholders and the FAA in terms of better evaluating the economic impact of their airports.

“Over the last 10 years, Ohio has really looked at our industry and recognized that aviation is a significant factor in their economy,” Quinn added. “They’ve done a fine job in this study of reaching out to industry stakeholders to have a voice in this survey and making it clear they want to hear from us.”

The third and final round of public meetings for the study is scheduled for May 2014.

Stakeholders may also complete their survey at the Ohio Airports Focus Study web page.