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OAC’s Bird Tells Airport Group That New FAA Report May Impact Future Funding for Some State Airports - Oct, 30, 2012

During the Oklahoma Airport Operators Association’s quarterly meeting last Friday in Oklahoma City, the state’s director of aeronautics, Victor Bird, discussed a new FAA report that places all of the nation’s general aviation airports into various new categories.

Unlike in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) that the FAA has used for many years to categorize GA airports, Bird said the new report entitled, “General Aviation Airports: A National Asset,” or ASSET as it is more commonly called, has categorized airports under four new designations: National, Regional, Local and Basic.

The new categories are set to replace those currently used by the FAA – Commercial, Reliever and General Aviation – when the new five-year NPIAS report begins in fiscal year 2013.

Out of the 2,952 GA airports in the ASSET report, 497 are what the FAA considers “unclassified” and are in need of further study to determine an appropriate category.

"The FAA has indicated that the continued study of those 497 airports has begun; however, I believe they will hold off until after (the general elections),” Bird said.

A review of the report shows that Oklahoma has 40 of those airports the FAA deems as “unclassified” – more than any other state.

"It would not surprise me to see a good number of those 497 airports come out of the (NPIAS). Do I think that some of the airports in Oklahoma could come out, could be deleted? Yes, I think they could,” Bird said, pointing to the state park airports as examples of airports that could possibly be removed from the NPIAS.

Bird explained that during its July meeting, the Aeronautics Commission had discussed closing Lake Murray State Park Airport at the request of its co-sponsor, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (the Aeronautics Commission is the other co-sponsor), which would have meant the airport’s automatic removal from the NPIAS. Commissioners voted to keep the airport open, however, based in large part to a direct request from the FAA so that the federal agency could further study the “unclassified” airports within the ASSET report.

Bird said that he expects the federal government’s current plan to reduce the nation’s massive federal deficit will have a direct impact on general aviation airports across the U.S., even right here in Oklahoma.

"I do think that we are coming into a time of austerity with respect to airport funding,” Bird said, noting that Oklahoma has received a significant increase in federal funding for airports over the last decade. “If sequestration occurs like some are predicting it will, that is going to be hanging over these 497 other airports.”

If the FAA does decide to delete some of Oklahoma’s airports from the NPIAS, Bird stated that he and the Aeronautics Commission will fight vehemently for those airports. And, if they are deleted from the NPIAS, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are automatically deleted from the State System, Bird stressed. They could still be eligible for state grants.

He pointed to Beaver Municipal Airport as an example of an airport that would most likely remain in the State System if the FAA decided to remove it from the NPIAS because of its role in providing emergency medical access and disaster relief services to many citizens living in that part of the Panhandle.

"In my personal opinion, I don’t think sequestration is going to happen. After Nov. 6, whoever is elected, I think something is going to be accomplished in the lame duck session. I’m not sure they will solve the dilemma of sequestration, but I do think they will come up with a framework to do it next January and they’will get it resolved without sequestration happening,” Bird said.

"The good news for us is that (Airport Improvement Program) has actually been walled off. It’s not going to be touched; however, personnel that have certain responsibilities in relation to AIP may be touched. So we could still see some impact there.”

Bird also provided OAOA members with a brief update on the recent reorganization within the Aeronautics Commission. He said that the Airports Division has separated into two distinct divisions: the Planning Division and the Engineering Division, headed up by Dale Williams and Vivek Khanna, respectively.

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Vic Speaks during OAOA, 10-26-12

Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission Director Victor Bird addresses airport managers and others during the Oct. 26, 2012, quarterly meeting of the Oklahoma Airport Operators Association, which was held at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City.