Airport User Groups & Crosswind Runway Ineligibility

by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager
Airports & State Advocacy • Great Lakes Region
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine – December 2021/January 2022 Online Issue

In a recent column I spoke of the importance of a local airport pilot or tenant association or user groups. These local groups are very important to the continued viability of any airport, and the planning decisions being made for the long term. Continuing in that theme, let’s focus on the specific duties and interactions that a group like this may undertake.

As discussed, prior, the design of these groups can be structured across the spectrum from informal to formal. No matter what the structure really is, the key to success is finding a positive dialogue with airport management. In some cases, the airport management is a contracted FBO, or it may be a municipal run airport with city or county employees managing the day-to-day operations. In my experience, and this comes from discussions with airport managers at airports of all sizes, a local support group is WANTED! Airport managers rely on these support groups to be the positive influence at an airport. Negativity is not needed, and really does no one any good at all. Trust me, the bad needs to be aired, but there is a way to do it that provides a positive result.

So, you are a member of one these local support groups. What should that group be doing?

Here is the laundry list, and we will discuss it in some detail:
• Be actively engaged in promoting the airport to the community.
• Interact with airport management and/or FBO personnel.
• Take part in airport planning committees.
• Create an inviting community for new pilots or new tenants.
• Have a mission or goal for the support group to accomplish.

The above items are mostly self-explanatory. However, there are two items that are very important – not just for the airport, but for the group itself:
1) Promoting the airport to the community. This by far is the most important tool that an airport has. Noise complaints, perception issues, growth, and a negative drumbeat against the airport can all be dismayed by opening the doors and gates to the public and literally changing hearts and minds.
2) The mission or goal of the airport group can go hand-in-hand with promoting the airport. Airport managers want to show off the airport to the community, but in many cases, he or she is a staff of one, maybe two. They need help! A local user’s group is the perfect way to organize an airport open house, community day, fly-in, food truck rally… well, you get the idea. There is always a way to make the public feel welcome and to want to be part of the airport. When the citizens are on the side of the airport, so follows the politics and the well-being of an airport.

Regional Airport Advocacy & Legislative News

An issue that has been percolating at a few airports over the last couple of years is becoming much more prevalent within the region – crosswind runway ineligibility. Dozens of airport sponsors across the region are facing tough planning decisions. FAA Airport Improvement Plan (AIP) discretionary funding is competitive and the FAA, along with airport sponsor input, must spend these dollars in the most effective way possible.

The FAA is looking closely at additional and crosswind runway eligibility based on wind studies at specific airports. This usually coincides with a master plan update, airport layout plan (ALP) update, or a specific project under consideration. In short, an additional or crosswind runway is recommended only when the wind coverage for a primary runway falls outside of 95 percent coverage. The specific operational situation at the given airport will dictate what timeframes (day or night) the wind velocity and direction are observed for data collection. Other factors used for eligibility are operational data. If the primary runway wind coverage is at or above the 95 percent, the FAA deems the crosswind or additional runway to be ineligible for FAA AIP funding. What does this mean? If ineligible for FAA AIP funding, any rehabilitation, reconstruction, obstruction removal, marking, lighting, etc. will be at the discretion of the local sponsor to fund.

With runway rehabilitation running easily into the millions of dollars, airport sponsors are electing to let the useful life of the runway pavement end and then close the runway. The property the runway occupies may open more land for aeronautical use development, such as hangars, to bolster the airport’s revenue and maintain financial sustainability into the future. In many cases, the closure of these runways has a significant safety impact to the ground operations by removing non-standard intersections or “hotspots” that are now commonplace to see on airport diagrams. AOPA is extensively involved in educating the airport users on what leads to the decision to close a crosswind runway and will help investigate if there are any beneficial reasons to maintain eligibility for funding.

On the legislative front, I will be actively engaged in a bill to be introduced any day (at time of writing) that will provide much needed language and procedural updates to Ohio’s “Airport Protection Act.” This law provides the foundation for the Ohio Department of Transportation, Office of Aviations, tall structure permitting processes. The changes have been in the works for several years but finding the correct timing amid a myriad of other priorities has been challenging. I am working with the Ohio Aviation Association on garnering support and closely monitoring the bill’s progress. Newly added provisions would give the local airport sponsor a stronger voice when it comes to the potential loss of airport utility (kyle.lewis@aopa.org).

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