July 20, 2011

The term “general aviation airport” can include so many varying operations and activities that even the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is looking for help to better describe and define the function of the nearly 3,000 “non-primary” airports in its National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

The FAA’s Office of Airport Planning and Programming has held two workshops this year to which it invited a large group of aviation stakeholders to contribute their expertise to more clearly defining various general aviation airport categories. There are currently 2,750 airports broadly defined as non-primary commercial service or general aviation in the NPIAS, with an additional 269 classified as reliever airports.

NBAA has participated in both workshops on the National Airport System Strategic Evaluation Task, or ASSET— the most recent one was held in late June – and Jeff Gilley, NBAA’s director of airports & ground infrastructure, agrees with the FAA that there is a need to come up with better descriptions of the roles and functions of the nation’s non-primary commercial service, general aviation, and reliever airports.

“The aviation community will benefit if the industry and FAA can better communicate to the public and elected officials the value and role of the myriad essential functions that take place every day at these,” said Gilley.

Gilley noted that the FAA study is not meant to change the airport categories used in the agency’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides funding to both general aviation and commercial service airports.

Selena Shilad, director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, also attended the ASSET workshops. “It is our hope that this process will help to raise awareness about the important role of general aviation airports in our economy and transportation infrastructure,” said Shilad.

“Non-primary airports serve an important function for our nation, whether it is supporting local business, agriculture and medical care; allowing small towns to attract and retain major employers; and a host of other important services and resources.”