Aviation Toolkit

  • Air cargo represents the movement of freight and mail by air. Air cargo activity at an airport depends to some degree on the airport itself and the air reliant businesses in the area but it can also be initiated or expanded as part of an overall airport marketing plan.


    The ability of an airport to support air cargo can be an important part of the economic growth and vitality of a region. Similar to commercial airline passenger service, air cargo service is typically driven by demand and air carrier decisions. The size of air cargo operations at an airport can vary drastically from large international freight hubs at Memphis International to a weekly flight on a small piston aircraft at a general aviation airport. The benefit of air cargo to a local economy includes additional jobs, wages, and economic activity.

    This section provides tools and resources to help educate the community on air cargo and how it works and some additional items to explore when pursuing air cargo development. In addition, it provides information on how to work closely with a community to ensure that all parties understand the realities and constraints and obstacles to air cargo improvements.


  • This section of the toolkit helps the reader understand commercial air service and discusses the connection between the airport and commercial Air Service Development and retention.


    Commercial air service is a vital building block in the economic foundation of a community and the prosperity of its citizens. It is the fastest way for the public to get from here to there, and much more than that, it drives economic activity in the region. It is an industry in itself with employees and suppliers and it is an aid to education and government. It connects the world we live in, allowing families to unite despite geographic distance, business markets to expand beyond local clientele, and culture to flourish across boundaries.

    For the purpose of this section, commercial air service is defined as scheduled passenger airline service. This section provides tools and resources to help educate your community on the realities of air service and the role of your airport in commercial air service and ASD. In addition, it provides information on how to work closely with your community to attract, improve, and maintain air service and ensure that all parties understand the constraints and obstacles to air service improvements.

    ACRP Report 18 Passenger Air Service Development Techniques, a 2009 report from the Transportation Research Board, identifies methods that have been used in an effort to increase air service or maintain existing service. It is an excellent educational resource for ASD and referenced frequently here.


  • This section of the toolkit aims to empower users to understand and then evaluate the role of their airport within the economy. That knowledge can then be leveraged to begin collaborative conversations about the current and future economic development potential of the airport within the broader community.


    By providing access to air transportation services, airports play an important role in supporting local and regional economies. Airports offer businesses a means of connecting to the outside world by providing connectivity for inbound goods and outbound products on the freight side, and for business travelers and incoming tourists on the passenger side. They can also serve as regional job centers and influence development in their vicinity. Thus, airports may contribute to local economies in three primary ways. They support:

    • On-airport economic activity and employment
    • Airport-adjacent economic development, and
    • Off-airport activity at businesses that rely on aviation for business travel, cargo transport, and access to visitors.

    Depending on its size, community/regional characteristics, and functional role within the aviation network, each airport plays a somewhat different economic role. For example, a business that relies on aviation for business travel to serve a broad market area may either depend on commercial air service, and/or may choose to keep one or more based aircraft. These decisions depend in part on the characteristics of service available at the most readily accessible airport.

  • Airports include more than runways and hangars — they include open areas, creeks and ponds, forests and other environmental resources. In urban environments, airports sometimes provide the only open space or green space for miles around. Airport operators are responsible for managing the environmental resources within their boundaries in accordance with federal, state and local environmental laws, policies and regulations. Airport operators are also responsible for managing their operations in a manner that is sustainable and avoids environmental impacts.

    The community or the media may express interest in the environmental activities at your airport —especially when there is a perceived problem or in response to a specific project or event. You can respond to this interest and use it as an opportunity to explain your airport’s environmental policies and practices, alleviate potential concerns, and cultivate a positive public image to demonstrate that, as an airport operator, your organization is a responsible steward of its environmental resources.


    The toolkit will provide you with a basic understanding of common environmental topics associated with airports. It will help you to identify:

    • Environmental resources that are, or may be present, at your airport
    • People in your organization that may be responsible for managing environmental resources at the airport
    • Resources associated with applicable environmental policies and programs, and your role and responsibilities in complying with those policies and programs
    • Available training and other support for managing environmental resources and sustainable practices

    With a clearer understanding of the environmental resources at your airport, you will be able to develop and communicate your airport’s environmental policy and procedures to interested members of the community and cultivate a positive image for your airport.

    The content of this section reflects many of the ideas and guidance set forth in ACRP Report 43, Guidebook of Practices for Improving Environmental Performance at Small Airports. Although the report was prepared for small, general aviation airports, the information is applicable to larger airports including commercial-service airports. The environmental tool follows the same organizational structure used in this report to address the following environmental topics:

    • Air Quality
    • Emergency Planning and Response
    • Waste Management
    • Water Resources
    • Understanding NEPA and Environmental Planning
    • Proactive Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability

    Although noise is an environmental topic, it is covered separately in the Noise section of this toolkit.


    • ACRP Report 43 Guidebook of Practices for Improving Environmental Performance at Small Airports

      Presents information to help airports build on their environmental programs, including information on applicable environmental regulations and compliance, and pursue a proactive approach to environmental stewardship. Although the report is intended for small airports, many topics apply to all airports regardless of size.

    • FAA Airport Regional & District/Development Offices

      List of FAA Airport Regional and District Development offices with hyperlinks to office locations and staff contact information.

    • FAA Airport Environmental Program

      Helps airports implement NEPA and other federal environmental laws and regulations. Includes links to applicable guidance (including regional), Orders, ACs, forms, and current news and top tasks for FAA related to its environmental program.

    • EPA Website

      The EPA’s home page is a good starting point for learning about EPA regulations.

    • EPA Website A-Z Index

      Contains terms and keywords that EPA Web visitors frequently search for. It does not replace the EPA’s search engine.

    • SAGA Website

      Interactive website developed by the SAGA specifically to share ideas about sustainability and sustainable practices.

  • Airport finance relates to the revenues and expenses associated with owning, operating, and developing and maintaining an airport. This topic explores airport managerial organizations and structures and how they impact finances, sources of airport capital funding and airport operational revenue generation and provides an explanation on how the use of certain funds are restricted.


    The FAA 2015-2019 NPIAS shows that there are 5,148 public use airports in the United States and of these airports 3,331 (65 percent) of them are eligible for FAA funding through the AIP. Airports must be included in the NPIAS to be eligible for federal funding. Please see Role of the Airport for more on the NPIAS. Separate from federal funding, each state has its own aviation funding system which can be applied to any state airport regardless of NPIAS classification. Other airports are funded solely by private sponsors. This section will focus on publicly funded airports, specifically those that are part of the NPIAS. Many of the topics discussed relate to airports outside of the NPIAS; however, these airports are generally not subject to the same financial regulations as those in the NPIAS and have greater latitude on how they use airport revenues.

    Airports are primarily government-owned facilities that contribute to the overall economic well-being of the surrounding community through jobs created, activities supported, and taxes generated. Airports are an essential public facility. Recognizing the regional economic impact of airports and the need for a robust air transportation system, the FAA and state and local governments often provide grants to improve and maintain airport facilities. The types and dollar amounts of funding will vary with airport size and organizational structure. Federal and state money is often available for capital projects only, and usually there are restrictions on how it can be used. Airport operating revenue generally must remain allocated to the airport (or within a system of airports) to help offset operational costs and support capital improvements not eligible for other types of funding. Generally, smaller facilities, often without the benefit of commercial air service, might not generate sufficient revenue to cover their costs due to market forces and restrictions on participation in some types of revenue generating activities.

    In Order 5100.38D, the AIP Handbook, the FAA includes an Airport Sponsor as one of the types of recipients of AIP grants (Section 2-1). This designation includes a public agency owning (or leasing from another governmental entity) a public-use airport. Further, a state, a political subdivision of a state (such as a city, municipality, or state agency), a tax-supported organization, and an Indian tribe or pueblo are all considered public agencies that meet the definition of an Airport Sponsor. In addition, a private entity owning a public-use airport is considered an Airport Sponsor. Airport sponsors that accept FAA grants are required to set a fee and rental structure that makes the airport as self-sustaining as possible with consideration given to the local economy. Depending on the condition of airport facilities, the local economy, and the types of users located at the airport, it may not be possible for airports to generate surplus revenue from operations. Public perception of a sponsor financing airport operations can vary by community; consequently, working to maximize revenue is a primary goal.

  • Land use near airports can be a contentious issue between an airport and its surrounding community.This part of the toolkit provides the background, strategies, resources and tools needed to address the issue successfully.


    The land uses around airports can impact the safety of aircraft operations and the safety of people living nearby. Planning for compatible land uses around airports can be challenging for many reasons, and as such, can easily be ignored. However, the issue of airport land use compatibility continues to surface when we hear of aircraft accidents like the UPS crash in Alabama in 2013, or the landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009. These incidents, although tragic, remind us of the importance of planning for compatible land use near airports and making it a daily consideration when evaluating development near airports from coast to coast.

    The land use portion of this toolkit is organized into three primary sections that together represent a progressive sequence guiding the user from general understanding, to self-assessment, to action. While the sections are organized successively, feel free to jump in at whatever stage you think is most appropriate to your needs.


  • This part of the toolkit explores the FAA’s regulation of noise, the evaluation of noise impacts in planning and environmental studies and through CFR Part 150 studies, and the role airports can play to coordinate voluntary noise reduction efforts and otherwise reduce off-airport noise impacts.


    Activity at an airport – including aircraft activity and construction - has the potential to create unwanted negative sound impacts on surrounding land uses, neighborhoods, and communities. Noise is defined as unwanted sound. Sound generated in an airport setting tends to have special characteristics and noise can be a major source of concern on the part of the public. Airports that have a proactive approach to noise issues tend to benefit from strengthened partnerships with the communities they serve.


    • NoiseQuest Website

      This website was developed to provide educational information on aviation noise. The initial site development was supported by the FAA through the PARTNER Center of Excellence under grants to researchers at The Pennsylvania State University and Purdue University. The ongoing development and enhancement of the NoiseQuest site is supported by the Federal Aviation Administration through the ASCENT Center of Excellence under grants to researchers at The Pennsylvania State University.

    • ACRP Report 15 Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations

      This report provides guidance on how best to improve communications with the public about issues related to aircraft noise exposure.

    • Noise Abatement Program

      Revised by the NBAA in 2015, this program includes noise abatement best practices for flight crews, departure procedure and approach and landing procedures, and guidance for aviation stakeholders.