Your Favorite Airport
The Meaning of Grant Assurances
September 1, 2018
Every aviator has a unique fondness in their heart for an airport that holds special memories for them. Those memories will forever remain with them. The picture of that airport, in their mind, will always be 72 degrees with clear air and visibility unlimited. In other words, simply perfect.
That "picture" of the perfect airport likely includes not just great weather, but perfectly manicured grass, clean, smooth and long, wide runways and taxiways.
Clearly money was available to keep this "remembered" airport in perfect condition. But most aviators never really think about the money and where it comes from that keeps their favorite airport in top condition. Now you might ask, "Why should I care?" or simply, "Should I care?" The answer is YES, you should care. The following information will help clarify why.
Answers to the questions above are well stated in a 2016 article by aviation author, Bill Dunn. He said, "When an airport sponsor accepts federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds, they enter into a contractual agreement with the FAA which includes a written promise to abide by 39 Federal Grant Assurances. These assurances are codified in Federal law via Title 49 of the US code §47107. Remember, the Grant Assurances only apply at airports that have accepted AIP grants from the FAA."
States that provide funding grants to airports have similar or additional conditions that apply once the airport accepts the grant. Generally, State and Federal grant assurances (GA's) ensure that your picture-perfect airport will stay open, be well maintained, and provide a safe environment for a variety of aviation activities.
AIP funds can only be used to pay for specific projects that directly contribute to the capital improvement of the airport. Projects that may be approved for AIP funding include those that enhance the capacity of the airport, preserve the airport, or provide for airport planning, development, and noise compatibility programs. When AIP funds are granted by the FAA, the recipient airport sponsor must accept the terms offered by the FAA and agree to provide grant assurances that certain obligations will be met.
In Minnesota, the Office of Aeronautics contributes funds toward the maintenance and operation of the airport and also participates in capital projects. Examples of assurances follow to give you an idea of what some of them look like GA 19 - Operation and Maintenance:
GA 19, Prohibits sponsors from closing an airport without FAA approval when there is no severe weather event that would prevent safe operations. In addition, sponsors are prohibited from allowing continuing maintenance failures that result in safety deficiencies.
Sponsors accept that it is their responsibility to notify pilots through the FAA NOTAM system of any conditions that affect the use of an airport, or any closures. In other words if snow and ice conditions make the airport unsafe to use, for example, the sponsors must issue a NOTAM regarding the conditions
Sponsors must also assure that they will not close the airport for non-aeronautical purposes without the FAA's approval. Sponsors must also assure that they will operate the entire airport (not just AIP funded facilities) at all times, subject to climactic conditions, while maintaining the airport in a safe condition. They must then close all or parts of the airport until the unsafe conditions are remediated. This must be done to correct the unsafe conditions within a reasonable amount of time. Sponsors may also close their airport when severe flooding, snow, or other weather conditions would prevent safe operation.
This prohibits an airport sponsor from causing or permitting any activity that would interfere with use of airport property for airport purposes. In some cases, sponsors who have received property transfers through surplus property and non-surplus property agreements have similar federal obligations.
GA 21: Compatible Land Use:
It will take appropriate action, to the extent reasonable, including the adoption of zoning laws, to restrict use of land adjacent to or in the immediate vicinity of the airport to activities and purposes compatible with normal airport operations, including landing and takeoff of aircraft.
In addition, if the project is for noise compatibility program implementation, it will not cause or permit any change in land use within its jurisdiction, that will reduce its compatibility, with respect to the airport, of the noise compatibility program measures upon which Federal funds have been expended.
In Minnesota zoning is required for funding. Funding may be provided for a project which involves the purchase of equipment. It requires that the recipient must keep that equipment properly stored, in good operating condition, and will not be used for any other purpose than airport operations.
Minnesota rules also indicate recipients (of grant funds), must operate their airport as a licensed, municipally owned, public airport at all times of the year for a period of twenty years.
GA 22(a): Non-Discrimination:
It will make the airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities, including commercial aeronautical activities offering services to the public at the airport.
GA 23: Exclusive Rights:
It will permit no exclusive right for the use of the airport by any person providing, or intending to provide, aeronautical services to the public.
GA 25: Revenue Diversion:
All revenues generated by the airport and any local taxes on aviation fuel established after December 30, 1987, will be expended by it for the capital or operating costs of the airport ...
Earlier in this article it is stated that "you should care" about your airport and the funding potential it may have. Now, take a look at Assurance 19. It clearly states that it "prohibits an airport sponsor from causing or permitting any activity that would interfere with use of airport property for airport purposes."
An equivalent example would be if an airport allowed a hangar to be used for non-aeronautical purposes such as the storing of automobiles, boats, or other non-aviation equipment or machinery. By allowing these non-aviation uses, and perhaps others not included in this article, an airport could stand to lose a substantial amount of their AIP funds.
The FAA does allow airport sponsors some amount of flexibility in how they handle their tenants' hangar usage. It makes good sense for airport sponsors and tenants to clearly understand what can and cannot be done on airport property.
In other words, know what non-aviation usage is allowed or is allowable in that airport's hangars. This should be done to avoid potentially jeopardizing their airport's AIP funds, while at the same time complying with the agreed upon assurances and federal law.
Aviators who understand grant assurances can have peace of mind knowing their "picture perfect" airport will be available to flyers long into the future. Also remember, it is aviation taxes that support aviation uses.
Additional information about AIP's and grant assurances is available online. Space availability limits what could be included in this article. For your convenience, links to the following are listed below: