Introduction-General Aviation Airports Are Essential Community Assets

General aviation, public-use airports ("General Aviation Airports")1 are an economic engine and lifeline for many communities. There are over 5,000 General Aviation Airports in the United States, which is ten times the number of airports served by scheduled airlines, making these General Aviation Airports critical for small and rural communities.2 They are essential community assets, serving an important role for business aviation; serving as a hub for the transportation of food, medicine, supplies, and people to our cities, towns, and municipalities; and functioning as a training ground for the next generation of pilots, airframe and powerplant mechanics, schedulers, and dispatchers. General Aviation Airports also support disaster-relief activities, firefighting, and law-enforcement activities,3 and many of these airports play a strategic role in our national defense.4 General Aviation Airports, however, are closing rapidly across the country.5 This article discusses some of the compelling reasons why General Aviation Airports should be saved.

Historical Importance of General Aviation Airports

There are over 18,000 airports across the United States, making our airport network the most extensive aviation system in the world.6 These airports are broken down into multiple categories, ranging from large commercial airports enplaning more than 30 million passengers annually to small grass strips serving only a few aircraft each year.7

The airport system in the United States began development between the two World Wars, with the United States Postal Service starting its fl ights between Washington, D.C. and New York. This inaugural service led to "many in the aviation community ... think[ing] seriously about the possibility of developing a system which would enable the airplane to be used as a mode of transportation on the same scale as the railroad or the automobile."8

The Air Commerce Act, passed in 1926, brought the federal government into the equation for both developing and regulating airports, and articulated the interplay between local government, federal government, and private industry.9 It was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), however, that resulted in large-scale federal development and expansion of airports. The WPA, an agency created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of the New Deal, employed millions of people for purposes of carrying out public-works projects in the United States, including the development and expansion of airports. In fact, more than 800 airports were developed or expanded under the WPA, including some of today's most prominent commercial airports, such as LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), Logan International Airport (BOS), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and Portland International Airport (PDX).10 Each of these airports is responsible for serving many millions of passengers annually.11

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1. General Aviation Airports are described by the Federal Aviation Administration as: "Civilian airports that do not serve scheduled passenger service are typically known as general aviation airports. These airports usually serve private aircraft and small aircraft charter operations." General Aviation Airports: Part 139 Airport Certification, FAA, U.S. DEP'T OF TRANSP., (last visited Nov. 5, 2020). "The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 defines a general aviation airport as a public airport that is located in a state and that, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation, does not have scheduled service or has scheduled service with less than 2,500 passenger boardings each year." FAA, U.S. DEP'T OF TRANSP., GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORTS: A NATIONAL ASSET 1 n.1 (2012),

2. Economic Impact of General Aviation: Executive Summary, ALLIANCE FOR AVIATION ACROSS AMERICA, (last visited Nov. 5, 2020). ? About the Alliance, ALLIANCE FOR AVIATION ACROSS AMERICA, https://www.aviationacrossamerica. org/about/ (last visited Nov. 5, 2020).

3. About the Alliance, ALLIANCE FOR AVIATION ACROSS AMERICA, (last visited Nov. 5, 2020).

4. FAA, U.S. DEP'T OF TRANSP., REPORT TO CONGRESS: NATIONAL PLAN OF INTEGRATED AIRPORT SYSTEMS (NPIAS) 2019-2023 (2018), historical/media/2019/NPIAS-Report-2019-2023-Narrative.pdf.

5. Barbara S. Peterson, New Rallying Cry: Save the Small Airports, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 2, 2007,

6. History of Airports, AVJOBS, (last visited Nov. 5, 2020).

7. Id.

8. Deborah Gwen Douglas, The Invention of Airports: A Political, Economic and Technological History of Airports in the United States, 1919-1939, at 1 (1996) (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania),

9. Id. at 4.

10. New Deal Category: Airports, THE LIVING NEW DEAL, (last visited Nov. 6, 2020).

11. Passenger Boarding (Enplanement) and All-Cargo Data for U.S. Airports, FAA, U.S. DEP'T OF TRANSP., (last visited Nov. 6, 2020).

Originally Published by Journal Of Transportation Law, Logistics & Policy.

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