By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
A new FAA study published in May divides the country's 2,952 public-use general aviation facilities into four new categories, which will affect their funding and regulation in the future. The facilities, which include 2,903 airports, 10 heliports, and 39 seaplane bases, now will be labeled as national, regional, local, or basic, determined by their level of activity and the number of aircraft based there. "State and local governments will be encouraged to use the new categories to help guide future system and airport planning decisions," the report concludes.
The study noted that GA airports are a "critical component" of the nation's air transportation system. "GA airports do more than relieve congestion at other airports, and in 2009 contributed $38.8 billion to the economy," the FAA said. Nearly one-sixth of the GA facilities couldn't be assigned definitively to any of the categories. This fall, the FAA will start working with airport sponsors and state aeronautic divisions to "identify the activities these 497 airports support, and how they serve the public interest."