Category: Aviation Revenue

What Makes it Military: A Note on Joint-Use & Shared-Use Airports

C-17 Featured Image

Hoyle Tanner aviation professionals have worked on hundreds of projects in New England and Florida. What we know about airports is that even though their components are similar, each has its own unique fleet mix, operations, management and facility needs. For example, climate will play a significant role in the design of a Florida versus New England airport. There are other differences between airports that most people don’t think about: how military operations work at airports, and what types of airports can even support those operations.

The Hoyle Tanner engineering team provided the design and construction management services for the 2020 Reconstruction of the Runway at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, a shared use airport. Photo taken during the construction phase.

Defining Different Airports

There are three kinds of military airports, a) Military only, b) joint-use, and c) shared-use. Military only is meant for Department of Defense use only, and no civilian aircraft utilize the airfield. A joint-use airport is a military airport that arranges for civilian access to the airfield. There are 21 joint-use airports in the United States. A shared-use airport is owned by the US government and co-located with an airport specified under Federal Code of Regulations 139.1(a). At shared-use airports, portions of the airfields are shared by both parties.

How the Different Types Came to Be: The War Era

As of 2020, there were 65 shared-use airports across the nation. A few in New England include Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, Bangor International Airport, Burlington International Airport, Bradley International Airport, Westfield Barnes Regional Airport, and Quonset State Airport. Not surprisingly, many of these airports can trace their roots back to their military ownership during World War II. Through the Development of Landing Areas for National Defense (DLAND) appropriation, the Secretary of War and Commerce and the Secretary of the Navy enabled land acquisition to build 986 airports throughout the United States. Many of these airports still exist where you live, as after the war many were declared surplus, and transferred to municipalities for civilian use. Additionally, since 1977, Congress has periodically granted temporary authorities known as Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) on five occasions. As a result, more than 350 military installations have been closed, some remaining as shared-use airports.

An example of a military taxiway design with additional FAA pavement and geometry shown in yellow cross hatched areas.

Design Standards

There are different design standards in terms of maintaining the infrastructure on these shared use airport facilities. For instance, the US Air Force has different geometric layout criteria for runways, taxiways and aprons, and safety-critical areas. Additionally, there are different pavement design methods and ways to determine the required runway length for both civilian and military aircraft. An example of a differing design standard is shown in the accompanying colored graphic. In terms of runway thickness, it is interesting to note that pavement strength at all types of airports is a function of underlying pavement materials, aircraft fleet mix, number of operations, aircraft weight, and gear configuration. Given all these variables, a runway’s pavement thickness is not always driven by the biggest and heaviest aircraft, and therefore not all military airfields require the longest or thickest runways. If you have flown into a joint-use or shared-use runway, you will note that the military has typically required some (if not all) of their runway to be made of concrete instead of asphalt; a difference in material choice driven by design standards, hot weather conditions, and in some cases, availability of one material over another.

Transitioning from One Type of Airport to Another

To help transition from a military base and airfield to a civilian airport, FAA administers a separate funding program called the Military Airports Program (MAP). This program assists new sponsors in converting former military airfields to public use to add system capacity and reduce congestion at existing airports experiencing significant delays. Both the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease and Brunswick Executive Airport have been recipients of MAP funding in recent past. Being in MAP affords an airport sponsor an additional stream of funding through FAA that can be used in addition to the traditional FAA funding avenues. In the cases of Portsmouth International Airport at Pease and Brunswick Executive Airports, this program has been very successful in replacing the lost jobs, businesses, and reduces the impact to the local economy that occurred when Pease Air Force Base and Brunswick Naval Air Station closed.

Air Force C-17 taking off at Burlington International Airport, with concrete apron construction in the foreground.

Experience all Around

Hoyle Tanner has developed a strong history of planning and designing projects at six current shared-use airports, one joint-use airport, two in the MAP program, and three former military airfields closed due to BRAC. If you want to learn more about the differences between joint-use and shared-use airports, please contact any of these experts within our company: Our subject matter expert for the MAP program is Suzanne Sheppard, PE, and for shared-use airports Nils Gonzalez, PE and Tim Audet, PE. We recognize the value of airports in our communities, especially when the military use and mission enhances the infrastructure, supporting airfield services and overall value of civilian use.

What is the PFC Debate about?

To become financially self-sustaining, airports are continually evaluating ways to generate the revenue needed to support their facility. One key program commercial service airports use to support development and maintenance is the Passenger Facilities Charge (PFC).

The PFC program was established in 1992 and instituted a fee up to $3 charged per passenger per stop, to be used by the individual airport for approved projects that include enhancing safety, security, or capacity, or increasing air carrier competition. Two decades ago, the maximum PFC was raised to $4.50 and has not been adjusted since. The PFC rate amount has been the topic of many discussions between Congress, airports, and airlines. The PFC cap increase debate is once again a topic of discussion in the current FAA reauthorization.




Rationale in Favor of Increasing PFC Charges

Airports and industry organizations such as the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and Airports Consultants Council (ACC) have been fighting for an increase in PFC charges and argue:

  • PFC is a user fee a passenger pays for using an individual airport. If you do not use the aviation system, you do not pay the price. The PFC is not an additional tax.
  • The current proposal to increase the cap on PFCs is needed to account for future inflation.
  • A simple adjustment to the PFC to account for inflation would directly support each individual airport’s infrastructure and fund the improvement projects needed.
  • As traditional revenue sources begin to decline such as parking due to rideshare companies including Uber and Lyft, airports need to identify additional revenue sources.
  • Large airports can drastically reduce their Capital Infrastructure Bonding Debt Service by funding more of the project with PFC revenue. Small communities can use the PFC to cover local share of the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant. Airport Council International (ACI) has a summary document that provides an example of how using PFC would significantly reduce the cost of a large scale terminal project by eliminating long-term debt payments.

Rationale in Opposition of Increasing PFC Charges

  • Airlines do not want to charge passengers additional fees.
  • The public is sensitive to airline ticket pricing and is not likely to support increased fees that will raise those fares.
  • Some airports negotiate fair and reasonable rates and charges without utilizing a PFC.

AIP Funds & Questions to Consider

Many United States airports rely on federal, state, and local funding to maintain existing capacity, accommodate growth, and support a safe, reliable national airspace system. The reality is, our nation’s airports are vital public utilities with sizeable operation costs. To meet the airports’ individual infrastructure needs the FAA established the AIP trust fund. This program was created as part of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1981 as a means of distributing federal entitlement and discretionary funds to airports that are part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

As we continue to watch the debate unfold over the following weeks, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase with future adjustments for inflation or we keep the status quo. There are still many questions to be considered. Per U.S. Code Title 49 USC § 47114(f), the amount of entitlement funds for large and medium hub airports that also collect a PFC, are reduced based on the PFC collection level approved for that airport. For example, if the airport is collecting at $3.00 or less, the amount of entitlements is reduced by 50%. If the airport is collecting more than $3.00, the amount of entitlements is reduced by 75%. If PFC raises to $8.50 or something in between $4.50 and $8.50, how would this further affect the process for AIP entitlement and discretionary distribution of funds? Would there be additional federal money supporting small airports while larger commercial airports can support their operations through PFC?

The Future of Airport Infrastructure

Airport executives are in a position where they are required to plan for future growth, support airlines, support aeronautical activity including the safe and efficient transport of people and goods, and enhance passenger services. How these improvements and services are funded are an integral part of the PFC cap increase debate. Legislators need to decide if an airport is a public asset that is to be supported by the government as an essential and vital piece of transportation infrastructure; or is an airport a business just like any other that is fiscally responsible for their operations? How this on-going debate over raising the PFC is addressed in 2020 will be key to airport infrastructure funding in the future.

Hidden Revenue Potential at Airports

Whether traveling for business or leisure, many of us have experienced firsthand the increase in the number of air travelers. Although fully booked flights are encouraging news for the industry, they also mean higher operating costs for the individual airports. To help defer these costs and become self-sustaining, many airport managers have begun to explore creative revenue generation opportunities.

A study conducted in 2017 by Airports Council International (ACI) estimated that the airports total cost per passenger is approximately $13.69. This value however exceeds the global average of $9.95 for aeronautical revenue received per passenger. While aeronautical revenue per passenger seems to be constant, the airport has the potential to increase revenue by finding creative ways to increase the non-aeronautical revenue associated with each passenger.

Revenue generated by an airport is typically divided into two streams. Aeronautical revenues include those funds generated to the operation and use of the airfield by aircraft or aviation-related businesses. Non-aeronautical revenues relate to those operations and uses that are incidental to the operation of aircraft. Traditional sources of non-aeronautical revenue include parking, rental cars, terminal lease, concessions, restaurants, and advertising. According to ACI, 39.9% of total global airport revenue is contributed from non-aeronautical revenue sources. Successful airport managers understand not only the aviation-related operations of their airport, but also the revenue potential associated with non-aviation operations and business. Some non-aeronautical revenue strategies that are applicable to both commercial service and general aviation airports include:

non aeronautical strategies

As technology advances, additional non-aeronautical revenue sources may also rise and airport administrators must be willing to embrace these opportunities to help defer ever-increasing operating costs and become self-sustaining.

For further questions about these creative approaches please contact me.