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Airport Aid Grant Program Task Force

November 2002


In May 2002, the State WSDOT Aviation initiated a task force composed of owner and operator representatives of the State of Washington’s diverse aviation system to advise the Division’s grant program on the structure and policies by which the program should be guided. The Task Force met six times and has developed the recommendations that are described in the following paper.

Task Force Members include:

 Paul Bennett  Kittitas County
 Harlan Elsaesser  City of Colville
 Larry Haagen  City of Tekoa
 Mary Hollis  City of Davenport
 Marv Kinney  Port of Kennewick
 Catherine Mitchell  City of Tacoma
 Jim Neva  Port of Willapa Harbor
 Alan Paxhia  King County Airport District #1 (Vashon Island)
 Jerry Richardson  Washington State Community Airport Assn.
 Jeff Robb  Port of Port Angeles
 David Sypher  City of Chelan
 Gary Tomsic  City of Blaine
 John Townsley  Okanogan Legion Airport Improvement Assn.
 Sheldon Tyler  Port of Camas/Washougal
 Craig Ulleland  City of Ritzville


The Task Force reviewed considerable material before arriving at its preliminary recommendations. It considered historical grant funding patterns, current grant program regulations and guidelines, information about the grant programs from other states, and a variety of models that could be used. The Task Force also reviewed information contained in the following documents:

  • National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) State Aviation Funding and Organizational Data Annual Report for FY 2000 and 2001;
  • Washington State Aviation Policy Advisory Committee Report to the Washington State Transportation Commission, (May, 1998);
  • Airport Aid Program Application Guidelines and Procedures Manual;
  • Washington State Aeronautics General Aviation Construction Guidelines (circa 1989); and
  • Washington State Aeronautics Laws and Regulations (December 1990)

In addition, the Task Force members each provided information about the interests of the types of airports they represent. The following is a summary of that information.

Grant Program History

There are 129 airports in the Washington State Aviation System Plan. Of these, 65 airports are contained in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) and are eligible for federal funding. However, with the level of federal funding and the FAA’s historical Airport Improvement Program (AIP) prioritization methodology favoring funding at larger facilities, a significant number of NPIAS facilities are entirely dependent on the State Local Airport Aid grant program for funding. Of the 65 NPIAS airports, approximately 40 have received grants from the State Grant Program for a variety of purposes, including pavement, lighting systems, fuel dispensing systems, unicoms and many others. This is in addition to the 64 non-NPIAS airports that are solely dependent on the State’s Airport Aid Grant Program for grant funding.

Number of Airports Type of Airport
(19 airports) NPIAS Primary 12    
NPIAS Commercial1 5    
NPIAS Reliever 2    
(14 airports) NPIAS GA >50 based aircraft 14    
Typically, FAA AIP funding has heavily favored the top two categories because of FAA prioritization methodology and budget limitations
(23 airports) NPIAS GA, 20-50 based aircraft 15    
Non-NPIAS Stage II airports 8    
(33 airports) NPIAS GA, <20 based aircraft 17    
Non-NPIAS Stage I airports 16    
Typically, State funding is used for the two categories of airports above, although airports in other categories occasionally do receive State grants
(40 airports &
Non-NPIAS privately owned airports
(ineligible for State funding)
State-owned airports
(funded from a separate budget)
Seaplane Bases (5 private - ineligible, 4 public) 9    
Heliport (does not include hospital heliports) 1    

TOTAL: 129 Airports, 65 NPIAS2 and 64 non-NPIAS

Special Note: With the passage of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (commonly referred to as “AIR 21”), the FAA now has a new program for funding airport improvements at non-primary NPIAS airports. The new program is called the Non-Primary Entitlement Grant Program and is available for funding projects at many NPIAS airports that have historically not received traditional FAA AIP funding in the past. Non-Primary Entitlement grants can be used for any AIP-eligible project and, for the first time ever, they can also be used for pavement maintenance projects. For FY2003 alone, the FAA has $6,789,781 available for 41 non-primary NPIAS airports in the State of Washington. This is a significant program and one the State WSDOT Aviation encourages all NPIAS airport sponsors take advantage of if they are eligible.

1This FAA designation is based on the number of enplanements
2Note that Blaine may have changed categories recently from non-NPIAS to NPIAS but for this data is included in the non-NPIAS category

The State Aviation Division’s Airport Aid Grant Program has existed since 1946. The current source of revenue for the grants provided by this program is a tax of $.075 per gallon on general aviation fuel sold in the state of Washington. The funding level available varies widely among biennia, as shown in the table below. In the next biennium the projections are for fewer gallons of fuel sold on which to generate revenue and also a lower per gallon rate on aviation fuel sold (reduced from 7.5 to 7.0 (from $0.075 to $0.070) per gallon). The historic expenditures for the State grant program has been as follows:

   Biennium Grant Revenue
   1991 - 1993 $ 1.5 million
   1993 - 1995 $ 1.1 million
   1995 - 1997 $ 1.7 million
   1997 - 1999 $ 1.3 million
   1999 - 2001 $ 2.1 million
   2001 - 2003 $ 2.0 million

Based on decreasing revenue projections, current revenue forecasts for the 2003-2005 biennium project only $1.3 million will be available. Of that amount, approximately $220,000 per biennium is reserved for technical assistance and administration, further reducing the grant potential available to airports.

Grant funding revenue = $.07 per gallon on GA fuel,
$1.0 million forecast for 2003-2005 biennium

State grants have been awarded for a wide range of airport projects. Historically (over the last 6 biennia), about 65% of state grants have been for airport pavement, 7% for safety projects such as runway lighting and marking, and 28% for a variety of maintenance and operations projects. Forty-four percent of the grant funds have been awarded to small airports not typically eligible for federal funding, about 40% to airports that would be eligible for federal funding but generally do not receive it because of the federal grant prioritization process, about 6% to the very largest airports in the state, and the remainder to other airports not easily classified.

Airport Needs

The State of Washington Airport System Plan has identified a broad range of unfunded airport needs totaling $783.746 million, as itemized in the table below. This need contrasts greatly with the amount of money available for state grants.

Category GA Airports Commercial Service Airports Total
Funding Needed
$ in millions
Lighting $4.143 $1.010 $ 5.153
Nav Aids 4.177 5.045 9.222
Paving-New 30.943 338.189 369.132
Paving-Reconstruction 95.843 30.819 126.662
Paving-Extension 12.120 18.790 30.910
Land 9.576 3.400 12.976
Structures 21.644 78.451 100.095
Other 34.003 95.593 129.596
TOTAL NEED $212.449 $571.297 $783.746

TOTAL NEED = $783.747 million

Other States

In developing its recommendations, the Task Force studied models used in other states. The Task Force found that there is not a clear model used by other states that the State of Washington should emulate. Common themes among other states, however, include use of FAA standards when a state sets airport standards and licenses airports, and prioritization of safety and pavement preservation for funding.

Airport Interests

The very large range of size and operations of Washington State’s airports creates great diversity in the needs and interests among the airports. The following is a summary of the concerns that Task Force members felt needed to be addressed in their recommendations.

  • The grant program should be responsive to airports.
  • The grant application process should be easy for Airports to use.
  • The criteria for evaluation of grant applications should be known in advance so that airports can determine whether it is worth the effort to go through the application process.
  • The grant program should be flexible to reflect the diversity of the State’s airports and the changing status of some airports relative to federal funding.
  • Whatever allocation structure is established needs to be one that would be applied the same by any State grant program staff; it should not just rely on current staff’s knowledge of what is intended.
  • The funding goals/guidelines that are established ought to be structured to last more than one biennium.
  • Periodic review is needed, particularly in light of the fact that airports can move among classifications or designations over time.
  • Safety projects are uppermost in importance.
  • Pavement is critical, because without pavement, the planes can’t operate. Landing facilities in good condition are needed for safety; taxiways are less critical.
  • It is cheaper to maintain and preserve than to reconstruct pavement.
  • After pavement is constructed or rehabilitated, pavement maintenance should be a high priority.
  • The grant program should reflect the fact that airport sponsors differ in their ability to generate local matching dollars.
  • Airports that receive other funding could use State grant money as matching funds to leverage greater funding from those other sources.
  • Strong airport “sponsorship” (reflected by matching funds, volunteer support, etc.) should be recognized.
  • Airports at communities smaller than 4000 population may be most at risk.
  • A local entity may own and operate the airport, but the airport facility serves many more. Although airports in the Puget Sound area generate the most revenue, many airports outside the Puget Sound area are destinations for the same aircraft using the fuel purchased in Puget Sound.
  • Projects at larger airports are more expensive because of the cost of infrastructure needed to support the larger aircraft generally using those airports.
  • Larger airports also have access to federal funding that is typically not available to smaller airports.
  • With regard to the size of airports eligible for State grants, there should be a balance between the relatively higher cost needs of the larger airports vs the lower ability to pay for projects at the smaller airports.
  • The number of users affected by a given project should be given consideration in awarding grant funds.
  • The data about capital needs may be skewed by the ability of larger airports to have staff or consultants who can identify their needs; the smaller airports may not know what they don’t know and may not be able to identify what they actually do need.
  • There is a State statute that limits the amount given in any single grant to no more than $250,000.
  • There are a much larger number of airports in the category not typically receiving federal funding than there are that do receive federal money.
  • State grant awards should consider what other funding might have been available and used as an alternative.
  • Many airports are not using any federal funds because of their fear of the federal grant assurances that are required.
  • No airports in the state system should be categorically excluded from the opportunity to receive. While small airports have fewer funds to work with, larger airports may still not be able to fund all of their needs either.
  • Airports should be able to budget for regular, ongoing maintenance costs and should not use grant funds for those regular expenses.
  • Grant funds shouldn’t be tied up in projects that don’t move forward, because that would unnecessarily deprive other possible projects of funding.
  • When a project adds great value to the aviation system or allows additional revenue to be generated, then the grant program should fund it.

Standards for Decisions (Recommendations)

In advance of making any recommendations, the Task Force developed standards for its decisions. The standards they agreed by consensus to use to evaluate options before making any recommendation are as follows. The recommendation must meet these standards to be accepted:

  • Legal/ethical
  • Fair and Equitable (e.g., provides equal opportunity to influence outcomes; is accessible; provides transparent process; is not arbitrary)
  • Passes State audit requirements
  • Open, easy process
  • Objective
  • Measurable
  • Feasible/affordable
  • Generally acceptable to constituents
  • Facilitates the mission and objectives of the State Aeronautics Division


The following policy statements were adopted as Task Force recommendations to the State Aviation Division Grant Program:

Program Goals:

  • The grant program should be flexible. Categories used to differentiate among airports and/or types of projects for funding should be considered guidelines and not fixed.
  • A system for periodic review of the grant program should be established.
  • The overall purpose of the state aviation grant program should be to increase the safety of the state’s aviation system. Since the biggest component of safety at airports is the integrity of the runway surface, runway pavement should receive the highest priority in awarding grant funds.
  • An objective scoring methodology should be developed to establish eligibility of projects for funding.

Application Process:

  • Grant applications should be accepted at any time but considered simultaneously during the annual grant selection process associated with the relevant funding cycle.

Allocation Methodology:

  • The Division should allocate grant funds among airport applicants at its discretion, assuring that the ratios of funds to be used for the three project categories should be approximately 65% for pavement, 20% for other safety, and 15% for maintenance and operations, and that approximately fifty-five percent (55%) of the funds should be allocated to airports that are NPIAS GA, <20 based aircraft, non-NPIAS Stage I and non-NPIAS Stage II airports; and approximately forty-five percent (45%) allocated mong all other airports.

Illustration: The table below reflects how this would affect funding to different categories if it were assumed that $10 million were available over the next six biennia. (note that dollar allocations would still be approximate, not exact)

Type of Airport Type of Project
Maint, Security & Ops – 15%
All Other
(48 airports)
29.25 %
[$ 2.925 million, or
$243,750 per year]
[$900,000, or $75,000 per year]
6.75 %
[$675,000, or $56,250 per year]
NPIAS GA, airports w/<20
based aircraft, non-NPIAS
Stage I and non-NPIAS
Stage II airports
(41 airports)
35.75 %
[$ 3.575 million, or
$297,916 per year]
[$1.1 million, or $91,666 per year]
8.25 %
[$825,000, or $68,750 per year]

Minimum Requirements:

The grant applicant should have to meet all of the following requirements to be considered for a grant:

  • Unless the grant requested is for development of a master plan or ALP, consistent with the current version of the State’s Airport Aid Guidelines and Procedures manual or the FAA equivalent, the project is consistent with a current and valid Airport Master Plan and/or Airport Layout Plan.
  • Comprehensive Plan and/or zoning regulations protect the airport from incompatible development or the airport can demonstrate it is actively pursuing inclusion in the comprehensive plan and development regulations (“actively pursuing” will need to be defined).
  • For NPIAS airports, if the project is FAA-eligible, the airport has to show that it has submitted an application for an FAA grant.
  • Unless the grant would be used for performing an environmental review, for construction projects to be State-grant funded, the airport must have completed the environmental review.
  • The airport sponsor will provide local matching funds for the project of no less than five percent (5%) of the project amount for which State grant funding is requested.
  • The project supports the goals and interests of WSDOT Aviation and the Washington State Aviation System Plan.
  • Any land on which State grant funds are expended shall be in public ownership or perpetual easement; alternatively, there should be a bond that assures the State will be reimbursed its grant funds if the land reverts to another private entity.

Project Prioritization:

Projects that meet the minimum requirements should be categorized by airport type (per the table above) and then put into priority order according to the number of points each project receives using the following system.

  1. Definitions. The following definitions should be used for grants given by the State Aviation Division. Under this recommendation, projects would be assigned to each category based on the primary purpose of the project.

    • Pavement Projects. For the purposes of applying the Airport Aid Grant Program methodology, “pavement” projects shall be defined as any project having to do with repairing, or rebuilding, an airport’s aircraft movement surfaces (be they runways, taxiways, or apron areas). This shall include crack sealing, slurry sealing, fog sealing, overlays, reconstructions, extensions, widenings, or other alterations to the surface. Repairs, or reconstructions, to turf surfaces shall be considered eligible under this category.
    • Safety Projects. For the purposes of applying the Airport Aid Grant Program methodology, “safety” projects shall be defined to include (but not necessarily be limited to): airspace obstruction clearing, runway safety area or object free area clearing, installation of wind indicators, marking, signing, lighting, reflectors, RPZ/approach surface land acquisition, NAVAIDs, approach aids, weather reporting, fencing or drainage improvements.
    • Maintenance, Operation and Planning Projects. For the purposes of applying the Airport Aid Grant Program methodology, “maintenance, operation and planning” projects shall be defined to include (but not necessarily be limited to): weed control, grounds maintenance, vehicles and equipment (e.g., snow removal, tractors, mowers, etc.), fuel system installations, fire suppression systems, airport master planning, airport layout planning, and environmental reviews or documentation.
    • PS&E. Funding for plans, specs and engineering will be associated with the project for which the plans, specifications and engineering work is needed. PS&E is different from airport master planning and airport layout plans, which are considered projects under the Maintenance, Operation and Planning Project category.

  2. Ranking Methodology. The following points should be given to prioritize grant applications received for projects within each project category.
  • Points would be assigned for projects according to the type of project.
  • Pavement Projects

    Type of Project Points
         Maintenance $ 1.5 million  
         Resurfacing $ 1.1 million  
         Reconstruction $ 1.7 million  
         Increase in Capacity $ 1.3 million  
         Extension $ 2.1 million  
      Type of Surface Points  
         Primary Runway    25  
         Primary Taxiway or ramp serving as primary TWY    18  
         Secondary RWY    15  
         Aprons    10  
         Other     5  

    Safety Projects

    Type of Project Points
         Obstruction Removal/Fencing    20  
         Marking    18  
         Lighting    15  
         Signage    13  
         Approach Aids    12  
         Weather Reporting / Communications    10  
         NAVAIDS     5  

    Maintenance, Operation & Planning Projects

    Type of Project Points
         Planning    20  
         Fuel    18  
         Maintenance Equip. (tractor, mower, snow plow)    15  
         Weed Control / Grounds Maint.    12  
         Water Systems / Fire Suppression    10  
         Other     5  
  • Points would then be assigned to all projects based on the following other characteristics.
  • Other Considerations

    Characteristic Points
         Corrects a deficiency or non-standard item    2  
         Grant being used to match another source of funds    2  
         Serves a vital community need (e.g.,medevac)    2  
         Promotes Economic Development / Self-sufficiency    1  
         Airport is included in the jurisdiction’s Comp Plan    1  
         Project is ready to proceed    1  
         Environmental Documentation Complete    1  
         PSE Complete    1  
         Funds Available    1  
         Airport has Community Based Support    1  
         Increased Local Match    Up to 3  

        Grant Standards and Assurances.

        The following policy should be adopted by the Aviation Division for grant recipients.

        It shall be the policy of WSDOT Aviation Division to require airport sponsors that are in the NPIAS, and eligible to receive federal funds, to meet appropriate Federal Aviation Administration design and construction standards for all new projects. If a NPIAS airport does not currently meet federal standards, the Division shall work with the sponsor to develop a plan for how they will, to the extent feasible, eventually meet those standards. The Division shall place a high priority on assisting airport sponsors with grant funds to meet the FAA’s minimum safety standards. WSDOT Aviation shall also encourage all Non-NPIAS airports to meet FAA standards for all future projects. However, when WSDOT AD determines that this is not feasible or practical, the airport sponsor shall apply state standards as set forth in WSDOT Aviation’s Airport Aid Grant Procedures publication.

        Note: The State WSDOT Aviation has accepted an FAA grant to develop its own set of state airport design and construction standards. Once the standards have been developed, they will be included and published in the State’s Airport Aid Grant Procedures booklet.