WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another alleged independent group has come out with a study of airport financial grants and revealed that they, too, know little about aviation.
The study, released by a “watchdog” group that looks into government spending, says it found “billions of dollars flowing to low priority airports.”
A release from Subsidyscope, an initiative of the Pew Economic Policy Group of the Pew Foundation, which released the study, said between 2005 and 2009, more than $2 billion was granted for more than 3,100 airport projects it called “low priority.”
The group said these airports received priority ratings below the FAA’s threshold for projects consistent with national goals and objectives. The report also cited how the funds are secured from fuel and ticket taxes, adding that the money came mostly from “passengers using large commercial airports.”
When the report was released, FAA officials tried to set the record straight by pointing out that there are many factors that govern grants, such as safety, security, and impact on system capacity.
One example of the organization’s lack of understanding of the value of airports is this statement: “Subsidyscope analysis also reveals that a number of small airports that accommodate as few as one paying passenger each year received significant amounts of federal funding from AIP.” Statements such as these show Subsidyscope officials are under the impression that airports are only for passenger service and never used for air ambulance, fire fighting, business travel, air taxi, and a myriad of other missions.
The obvious lack of understanding of airport financing revealed in the study confirms what people who conduct studies and surveys know: “Tell me what you want to show and I’ll get the research to prove it.”
Ironically, on the day the study was released, general aviation received a boost from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who issued a strong proclamation recognizing the important role that aviation plays in Georgia’s economy and for towns and communities across the state.
Edward Ludwig says
As a former multi-engine cfll I’ve seen changes in the GA world that are regressive. such as litigation and tort fees attached to the price of an aircraft and insurance companies that require an extrodinary amount of experience in order to pay for way too expensive insurance.if one hundred people owned and flew thier planes,it would be expensive but if ten thousand people owned airplanes it would be more affordable for people that would like to fly but can’t afford it (supply and demand considered)And no matter how an airport is classified it is an important part of our infrastructure
Let’s face it; most here have a vested interest in keeping FAA money flowing to GA airports, which is why Neil is getting beat up. GA airports are absolutely necessary to local economies, police, firefighting and most small aircraft operations. But let’s not kid ourselves; there is waste in AIP projects.
Governing boards of GA airports are the trigger for FAA/AIP funding. Often they are the culprits who abuse or misuse these funds. I’ve sat through many meetings where Board members refer to AIP money as ‘free money’. Consequently, much of the money funds non-critical and sometimes frivolous improvements. All of us have an obligation to be our brotherâ€™s keeper and not allow a perception, whether real or not, of wasteful spending. These are tax dollars and the majority does come from sources other than GA fuel tax. We are fortunate to have a system that does redistribute large amounts of tax dollars from commercial operations to GA airports. Ten years of taxes generated at my small airport wouldnâ€™t fund one year of AIP improvements.
Iâ€™m all for protecting what we have, but letâ€™s not lose sight that GA does not pay its way at this time.
As an Air Ambulance pilot, A pilot who flew for the smaller feeder freight companies, and a pilot who flies freight for the Fire fighting effort, and passenger charte I’d have to Say that Walt probably encapsulated the true issue here.
The study is short sided, ignorant, and biased. Which doesn’t make it a study at all, it makes it an editorial with an agenda.
The reason so many people are outraged at the money being spend is because they are not informed and they simple don’t understand the value of these airports.
As for that first pilot- Neil- who commented up there- The fact that YOU can’t see past your $100 hamburger flights on fair-weather days, doesn’t mean that those operations don’t take place.
I fly in severe weather all the time picking patients up, delivering freight, etc. I love what I do and wouldn’t trade it for the world but we depend on decent infrastructure and airport facilities to be able to deliver us safely in this weather. That means good landing surfaces- capable approach and lighting systems, a means of obtaining weather in a reliable manner, ATC services at least close by, roads infrastructure into the airport, security for the plane while at the airport- weather it’s in the form of a fence or whatever, a place to get out of the weather while we are waiting at the airport. perhaps even a place to deice.
Are we getting the picture here? This stuff costs money and every time I fill the tanks on my turbo-prop powered BE20, a percentage goes toward it in the form of the fuel tax. I pay county and city landing fees at some places and that goes toward it. So if that’s not working or that’s not enough- let’s fix the problem- But let’s not paint General Aviation as something that’s only for a few hobby pilots with inflated egos and warped self-perception.
Yet, in 10 years of flying, I can’t say that I’ve had one qualifying passenger emplanement. Yet I’ve burnt 10’s of 1000’s of gallons of jet fuel….and avgas for that matter- all taxed at the same rate as everyone else- and all apportioned toward the AIP in some manner.
So…the next time you see Los Angeles on fire, or the next time it’s dark, and windy, and snowy… While you’re tucked in warm on the couch watching TV with the family, think about the people out there who are depending on that airport infrastrucure to the fullest.
Gad Barnea says
I agree with Walt’s excellent analysis of the report. The “research” is not only clearly biased, but also contains many errors. Some were mentioned here – and I’ll refer folks interested in further analysis of this “report” to flymiwokblog.com, if that’s OK.
Gad Barnea, FlyMiwok
I’m a GA pilot, Angel Flight West pilot, in my local Civil Air Patrol, and fly for my local Aero Squadron providing law enforcement officers with air support. I’d say that’s not as “recreational” as some of you here might think. There’re the weekend warriors, and then there’re the rest of us who fly regardless of weekdays or weekends, to serve for the benefit of society on a volunteer basis. Keep these GA airports open people!
I took Marcus’ advice and read the original article, which included:
“Eleven airports received total AIP allotments exceeding $100,000 per paying passenger from fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2008.”
The reference to paying passenger is clear, and the inferred inequity from it is blatant, ignoring the other uses of these airports.
Next, they said:
“General aviation airports, â€œrelieverâ€ airports near large commercial airports, and small commercial airports have received about one quarter of all AIP fundingâ€”about $4.5 billion of almost $18 billionâ€”over the past five years.”
So these airports received 25% – what proportion of the total number of airports do they represent? I hazard to guess it’s way more than 25%! There are thousands of small airports in the country but only a relatively small number of airline-serviced airports.
Then they said:
“Of more than $1 billion in AIP grants awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from mid-March through mid-September 2009, Alaska received $82 million, more than any other state. California followed with $71 million.”
“Among the stimulus-related projects in Alaska were a new $14.7 million airport for the community of Ouzinkie (population 225 as of the 2000 census); a new $14 million airport for Akiachak (population 585), and the $10 million rehabilitation of a runway in Allakaket (population 97).”
Isn’t it odd that two states with huge land masses equal to many other states put together would receive so much? And that Alaska, with towns that are often inaccessible any other way at certain times of year, should have $14M devoted to airports for each of two small towns? In comparison, how many other small towns in the lower 48 have had much more than $14M in road work to their benefit?
And another reference to “enplanements” (paying passengers):
At my home field (Fox Field, Lancaster, CA) on an average weekend you’ll see quite a number of recreational aircraft taking off and landing. People enjoying their hobby, students learning to fly, and an occasional business-related flight. During the week, you’ll also see FedEx and UPS aircraft daily, occasional military training flights, and more business operations.
Recently with the wildfires in southern California, you would have seen waves of firefighting airplanes taking off and heading to the mountains and back like an airborne bucket brigade – a vital operation that can save lives as well as property. Having a base within minutes of likely burn areas provides an economy of operations and speed in delivering needed help.
Yet this airport has no paying passengers – so zero “enplanements”, making it undeserving of the recnts sorely needed repairs to the crumbling ashpalt tarmac.
Clearly the article is a very biased bit of “reporting” by someone with an agenda.
I missed your post before I responded to Bill and TL,, I made a mistake in quoting TL, According to the FAA 5010 site, 4,500 operations per week) I should have quoted him as (operations per year) and I mistyped, (I have been a member of the AOPA for a long time and if this is what it stands for, Itâ€™s to quit the AOPA.) I meant to say if this is what it stands for, Itâ€™s time to quit the AOPA.
Waste is waste and we as a nation of tax payers can not carry the burden of spending money on air ports that are land locked and cannot expand beyond 4000 feet, Air ports that will fall back to the original land owners when the airport failsâ€¦. Especially when we are borrowing money from China to do this.
And don,,, And I challenge you also to stand up and prove the activity you say is taking place.
Bill and TL I wasnâ€™t looking for an argument about the operation of the Litchfield/Grayson County Air Port.
Each of you started out with, ( Bill, Data shows 87 operations per week,,, TL, According to the FAA 5010 site, 4,500 operations per week) I donâ€™t know what your relation is to the air port. But, If you are relying on the numbers quoted above, you need to do something and become more realistic. I had a small plane at the air port for a number of years.
I donâ€™t know what defines an operation, tell me. Also, I donâ€™t feel that any rural county Small Medium or Large should be cut of from the rest of the world. Itâ€™s always impressive to say we need this in case of a medical emergency. You may visualize a medical emergency, with numerous Hugh transport aircraft landing on the 4000 foot strip at the Grayson County Air port, with no place to park. I however visualize one or two Life Flight Helicopters landing at a site near the medical emergency.
I donâ€™t want to go on with this, you two can blow smoke up the FAA rear end with all the numbers. I have been a member of the AOPA for a long time and if this is what it stands for, Itâ€™s to quit the AOPA.
And I challenge the two of you to stand up and prove the activity you say is taking place.
I strongly suspect that the FAA number of “operations per week” is grossly understated. If no flight plan is filed, no count of an “operation” is filed for the home or destination airport.
I tend to call Flight Service for weather, file no flight plan and hookup with Center to get flight following when airborne. Once I was late closing a flight plan (had to divert a long way}, The FAA called the kids. The FAA was no problem. The hassel from the kids was a major pain.
Anyway, No flight plan, No operation count. You might want to remember this. Filing boosts the count for your home airport. It helps with federal funding.
I suggest people read the original Subsidyscope story and make their own judgment: subsidyscope.com/projects/transportation/aip/
John, think your numbers are a bit off on Grayson county M20
Aircraft operations: avg 87/week *
44% transient general aviation
42% local general aviation
9% air taxi
* for 12-month period ending 24 April 2009
Its the things you don’t see. You see one airplane a week. How about the air taxi? or the Military usage? as many have said uniformed..We need to get the correct and proper information out
John – According to the FAA 5010 site, LEITCHFIELD, Grayson County, has 4,500 operation per year. That is 12 per day, granted some days are busier than others. The important part is that the $1m in improvements will last for 30 years. That is a cost of $8 per operation. I guarantee that there has been more economic impact than $8 per takeoff or landing. Plus, if you need an air ambulance, I think you find that the improvements are necessary. It’s like saying the people in Leitchfield do not deserve a bridge from one side of the tracks to the other so the fire trucks can serve the whole town.
The one ingredient I see left out of these anti-arguments is “where do you think the airline pilots come from?” They are mostly trained at the “low priority” airports. Without them there would be little or not passenger carrier airlines.
Robert Weichert says
To show you how negligent these reporters are, that are writing these articles-Congessman Jerrold Nadler, D/NY proves that he did not encourage approval or ask for a waiver of an FAA grant, as reported. Nor, did I sell the airport, as reported.
I wish they would get their facts straight. Maybe a libel action or two, would give them an attitude adjustment.
I believe the AOPA is correct in thier opposition to taxes and fees at this time. GA pilots are not necessarily people with disposable income and for the most part are harding working family people that have a passion for flying. The current economic sitiuation doesn’t lend itself to increased fees, heck even the government is not making an adjustment for the standard of living for those on SS payments. I know many pilots who can’t fly due to financial obligations (lack of money), additional fees will potentially ground them for a longer duration and in turn will not benefit anybody since no revenue will be collected. I have seen flight schools go out of business over the last year which is really depressing since another dream of being a pilot will not happen. I do believe that airports should meet certain criteria for funding from the feds but I am sure that in the realm of the federal spending airports are not consuming the most money (especially compared to funding abroad). If spending is wastefull then you evaluate it and make adjustments (like our own budgets). Fees are not a solution at this time, once spending is evaluated and the economy rebounds then potentially look into taxing and fees but not if a problem exists with current spending. I disagree with Neil and would like to know what “free ride” he has enjoyed, I have worked extremely hard and given up many things to be able to fly and know that I’m not the pilot enjoying the $100 burgers.
Lets face it folks, most of the government’s spending is waste, ACORN, the whole health care debacle, the promise to ‘find’ the $500Million Medicare waste if we spend $1 Trillion in the next 10 years, and 10 Trillion for the 8 yrs after without improving any provision and eliminating care as we know it, global warming terror, ‘Green’ job wealth redistribution, the government bailout of the auto unions at GM and Chrysler, the giveaway to ‘save’ the banks, the ‘TARP road improvement’ signs designation highway repairs that should be part of our regular state and local governments budgets, etc. Throw in the bloated TSA organization and Coast Guard costs for boaters. Its not about policy and ideas, its about controlling power. Its not a Rep/Dem issue, its a heart of the people in power issue. Our government isn’t interested in policy so much as control.
We are a country governed by corrupt congressmen and senators, but mostly corrupt from the district and state’s next door, not where I live.
I will say the PEW and Subsidyscope orgs come with a left leaning, socialist slant to how people are to be controlled by regulators, so I am not suprised at thier conclusions, nor am I surprised that ‘big iron’ airlines support this type of voodoo economic reasoning.
Data shows 87 operations per week at the airport in Litchfield. I suppose you feel that small rural county should be cut off from the rest of the world when it comes to aviation. Never mind the airport can be used during medicaal and other emergencies to get people and supplies in and out. They can always drive (sarcasm).
Neil and everyone who travels needs to acknowledge that to prevent further scheduling problems at the large airports we as a country need to fully support the landing facilities across the country that handle the corporate, small business, flight schools, fire fighting, air ambulance, freight haulers, etc. so that these aircraft are not needing to use the large airports. All of the airport uses other than commercial passenger are vital to a strong economy, jobs, life safety, etc. If small airports and ATC are funded largely by direct user fees, these industries will shrink or collapse altogether. The funding system that has been working for decades has worked well as designed by intelligent people. There is no reason to change something that works as well as the system that we have had for decades. We do need to eliminate wasteful spending on antiquated radar and navigation aids, unnecessary bureaucracy, and over spending at any airport that is already meeting the needs of its area.
Neil couldn’t be more short sighted in his comment that GA is primarily recreational fliers. Huge corporate flight departments, many of which are based in my home state (Michigan), operate under part 91…which classifies them as General Aviation. Many cargo operators are considered general aviation. Air ambulence, forestry, etc., etc. It is people like Neil who believe that “GA” is just a bunch of people bombing around in thier 152’s that spur legislation that will impose user fees on us. This shortsighted and uninformedness must stop.
I have to admit, it seems like a lot of waste. An Air Port in Litchfield, Grayson County, Kentucky serves Four or five private hangers, one county hangar. I would estimate that this Air Port on average, has less than one landing per week, small private air plane. And the information provided by this study Group indicated that the air port had received $1,094,940.00 in the time frame reportedâ€¦. Wasteful yes.
Neil could not be more wrong. A one hour GA flight costs less per person than a round of golf at most of the courses in my town during the prime season. Many of the airports that have no paying passengers service tons of freight, serve as relief airports for major airports, and provide important services to remote towns. Virtually no ATC services are used by “recreational flyers” unless you consider the businessman in his Citation a recreational flyer – and I can tell you, business jet operators pay their fair share in fuel taxes and airport usage fees.
The ATC system exists because the airlines exist. If you eliminated all IFR general aviation flights, you would save virtually nothing in the cost of ATC. That’s why the current system works, and the attempts to switch to user fees are just another attempt by the airlines to most costs away from them and on to others.
Keith L in Georgia says
By the â€œSubsidyscope logicâ€ only those roads that are used for Greyhound bus service should receive federal DOT funding. All other roads are â€œlow Priorityâ€. Also the money must all be generated only by the taxes paid by the bus company on fuel and ticket sales. How big of a moron do you have to be to have that limited of a view of the world? They could have at least tried to throw in the air freight companies in to the mix. Forrest Gump said it all, â€œStupid is as stupid doesâ€.
Let tell everyone that none of their local road or highways are going to be funded unless there is commercial bus traffic (school busses do not count since flight schools do not count) on them.
GA needs to acknowledge that is a very expensive activity that uses a lot of taxpayers dollars for infrastructure and personnel (ATC, etc) for primarily recreational flyers. This is the truth, and fighting all these studies because they don’t lead with the role of “firefighters” (AOPA), is no more than spin. I am a GA pilot and owner and believe that we’ve largely had a free ride with low taxes on fuel. Things have changed. Deal with it.