The Airport Improvement Program (AIP)
The Airport Improvement Program (AIP) was founded in 1982 by the Airport and Airway improvement act. Since its establishment, this program has gone through various amendments favouring the less privileged individuals and businesses. The finances obligated for this program come from the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (Kirk, 2010). The trust fund draws its finances from various revenue sources such as fuel taxes and user fees.
AIP offers grants to various public agencies and some private entities included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. The grants provided through this program cover a certain percentage of the airport’s eligible costs. The percentage to be covered is determined by the size of the airport. For example, the grant only covers 75% of the eligible costs for the large and medium-sized primary airports. On the other hand, the grant covers 90 to 95 per cent of the eligible costs for general aviation and small primary aviation.
The AIP grants for noise compatibility, development and planning projects are mainly meant for individual public-use airports. These include seaplane and heliports bases. A public-use airport refers to an airport that is accessible to the members of the public. Any airport regarded as a public-use airport has to meet specific criteria: the airport has to either be publicly owned or privately owned but selected by FAA to serve as a reliever. Furthermore, for any airport to qualify for the AIP grant, it must be incorporated in the NPIAS. The preparation and publishing of the NPIAS are carried out after every two years. It plays a critical role in identifying public-use airports that are essential to public transportation and help address the needs of the airport, the postal service and national defence.
The airports that receive AIP grants are known as ‘sponsors.’ The authorizing legislation details and describes the various eligible AIP grant activities. Various activities detailed serve to improve several areas of the airport, such as noise compatibility, capacity, and safety. The AIP program also requires the sponsor to meet other essential requirements for them to be eligible for the grants. Sponsors must be financially and legally able to conduct obligations and assurances included in the grant agreement and project application. Additionally, the sponsors are required to coordinate well with the FAA Non-Federal Program throughout the planning process. Sponsors who accept to receive grants from AIP are required to accept the various obligations and conditions related to the grant assurances (Dempsey, 2008). The sponsor’s obligated to run and maintain the airport in a useful and safe condition, alleviate hazards to airspace, utilize airport revenue accordingly.
Usually, the demand for AIP funds surpasses the availability; thus, the competition is high. In order to mitigate this problem, the FAA distributes the funds following certain criteria. First, the finances are distributed based on the airport’s objectives and priorities. Also, the first priority during the distribution of these funds is given to major prerogative categories such as general, primary and cargo aviation. The remaining part of the finances is put into discretionary funds. Various reserved projects such as Military Airport and airport noise programs are considered when the discretionary fund is being distributed.