As people around the country gathered to celebrate the centennial
of flight, President George W. Bush signed into law the U.S.
Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration
four-year, $60 billion reauthorization bill.
Dubbed “Vision 100 – The Century of Aviation
Act,” the bill provides $14 billion for airport construction
projects nationwide, $140 million to help small communities
attract and retain air service, $308 million to ensure air
service to isolated communities, and $2 billion to create
more efficient security screening at airports.
The bill is touted as helpful to the aviation industry.
It certainly is viewed as a major boost for Idaho, says Bill
Statham of ITD’s Division of Aeronautics. The new bill
ensures the continuation of much-needed federal funds for
small airports and significantly eases the financial burden
on airport owners and the state for their share of improvement
“This enables us to provide a much greater bang for
the dollars we put into our airports,” Statham says.
Those dollars make their way from the FAA to local airports
through the Airport Improvement Program. The grant program
supports security improvements, basic maintenance, and most
often, pavement rehabilitation projects. The program also
has a 90/10 match requirement, with 90 percent funding provided
by the FAA and the remainder shared equally by the respective
airport and the state.
What’s significant with the new bill is a change in
“Projects for the next four years will be funded with
95 percent FAA money, and a 5 percent match, which is usually
shared 50-50 between the state and airport owner,” Statham
No small accomplishment, considering reauthorization history.
For Statham’s 20 years in the business, the ratio has
remained at 90-10.
“It knocks our commitment of funds in half. What it
allows us to do is put money into the smaller airports that
have been under-funded for decades. Most of the small airports
don’t qualify for federal money and they haven’t
been able to keep up,” he adds. “This will give
us a chance to help them catch up.”
The reauthorization bill makes two other modest changes
that are significant to Idaho.
The first allows airports that can’t use available
grant funds to designate another airport to receive those
funds. This could happen when matching funds are not available,
or the pavement is in good condition and grant money simply
isn’t needed at the time.
Previous legislation required the funds to return to the
FAA pot, Statham says. Now, it can stay in state and help
another Idaho airport.
The other change is a carry-over provision, allowing airports
to accumulate up to four years’ worth of grant funds,
held by the FAA until the airport is ready to put it to use.
“Over four years’ time, one large grant could
make a huge difference,” Statham says.
Photo caption: The new FAA bill will help small airports
like Hailey's Freidman Memorial Airport attempt to attract
commercial air service.