USA Today: Small Airports Get Big Money

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Small general aviation airports around the country have raked in $1.1 billion in federal "earmarks" since 2001, USA Today reported this week. The earmarks are funds requested by lawmakers to support specific projects. USA Today says corporate jets, private pilots, and cargo operators like UPS and FedEx have benefited at the expense of taxpayers and the traveling public. NBAA, EAA, and AOPA were quick to respond. "Unfortunately, the vital contributions provided by community airports, and the millions of people who rely on them, were completely missing from your coverage," NBAA President Ed Bolen wrote to the newspaper. EAA's Earl Lawrence, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, also weighed in: "The continuing inference that the only airports that are worthy of support are those with commercial service is similar to saying the only roads worth maintaining are those used by passenger buses," he wrote. AOPA President Craig Fuller responded: "USA Today has done its readers a disservice by failing to present all the facts ... regarding aviation funding." Like most big companies, USA Today's parent company Gannett Co. Inc. has a corporate flight department, which includes a Falcon 2000 and fractional shares in other aircraft. AVweb has contacted Gannett to inquire about its use of general aviation airports and facilities and is expecting a response later today.

If this all sounds a bit familiar, it's because this week's USA Today report expands on a story published in September that touched on similar themes, and prompted a similar response from the GA advocacy groups. Click here for our report on that story, and click here for a post at the AVweb Insider blog by editor Russ Niles, which led to a lively discussion among our readers about the issues raised.