General Aviation Airports – A National Asset
GA airports account for almost 3,000 of the over 3,300 airports included in the NPIAS. To highlight the critical role that GA airports play in the national aviation system, the FAA published two reports: General Aviation Airports: A National Asset (ASSET 1) and ASSET 2: In-Depth Review of the 497 Unclassified Airports. These reports advanced the findings of the NPIAS and provided a further breakdown of how general GA airports are used and what role they play in each community, region, state and the nation.
The purpose of the ASSET 1 report was to classify GA airports found in the NPIAS by categories that would better demonstrate the role of the airport. Under the NPIAS, there is no separation of GA facilities. Metrics considered when categorizing airports include:
- Number of commercial service or cargo operations
- Level of activity (operations and based aircraft types)
- Located in a metropolitan / micropolitan statistical area
- Use by federal agencies
- Distance from other NPIAS airports
Using specific quantitative criteria established by the 2012 ASSET 1 report, GA airports were divided into four categories as described below:
- National – Supports the national and state system by providing communities access to national and international markets in multiple states and throughout the United States.
- Regional – Supports regional economies by connecting communities to statewide and interstate markets.
- Local – Supplements local communities by providing access primarily to intrastate and some interstate markets.
- Basic – Supports GA activities such as emergency service, charter or critical passenger service, cargo operations, flight training, and personal flying.
Following the initial ASSET 1 report, nearly 500 airports remained unclassified because they did not fit into any of the four categories using the established criteria. This was a concern because funding for unclassified airport projects is limited. Specifically, the AIP Handbook says the following with regard to funding unclassified Asset airport projects: By FAA policy, airports that are not classified as National, Regional, Local, or Basic airports in the latest edition of the FAA Asset report are only eligible for a project to rehabilitate the airport’s primary runway at a frequency not to exceed 10 years, a one-time project to remove obstructions from each end of the primary runway, and runway maintenance projects allowed per 49 USC § 47102(3)(H). In cases where there is extraordinary justification and APP-500 has concurred with that justification, other projects may be considered. Because these airports are important enough to be included in the NPIAS, the FAA sought to classify these remaining airports into one of the four ASSET categories. To accomplish this task, a follow-up ASSET 2 report was published in an attempt resolve the issue. This resulted in almost half of the airports moving into an ASSET category, while over half remained unclassified.