A new means to provide money for New Hampshire airports recently took flight, with passage of legislation creating an aeronautical fund to maintain and promote state airports not eligible for federal funds.
There are 24 public-use airports in the Granite State, but only 12 are eligible to be federally funded under the FAA's Airport Improvement Program. The remaining airports are funded by local entities or private owners.
Tricia Lambert, aeronautics director for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, explained the aeronautical fund creates an alternative for helping those airports not eligible for federal money. "This is one of our biggest initiatives to come up in the past two years," she said. "Certainly in this economic environment, it's been difficult to collect funds for those airports. Fortunately, the larger airports went to bat for the smaller ones – the 12 federally funded airports understood the needs for those other 12."
The effort to create an aeronautical fund began during the 2010 state legislative session, with a proposal by the Granite State Airport Management Association (GSAMA) to divert some of the state's aviation-related revenue into a dedicated fund to assist smaller airports. State Representative Christopher Nevins shepherded House Bill 1506 through the session, and while it did not pass, the proposal did garner enough interest to be held for an interim study by lawmakers.
Nevins reintroduced the bill for the 2011 session, this time without revenue attachments, and it passed July 1. While there is currently no mechanism for state funds to be placed into the aeronautical fund, Lambert says having the fund available is a healthy start. "We now have an avenue to accept revenue," she explains. "We're set up to accept outside revenue that may come into play in the future."
GSAMA President Rick Dyment considers the fund to be "a good start. Initially, the goal was to establish a fund and then request some funds to be put into it. The better thing was to establish the fund first, as a placeholder, for those airports that are not eligible for federal funds."
Above all, the aeronautical fund demonstrates to local communities the importance of their hometown airfields, and promotes use of New Hampshire airports. Lambert notes the state continues to offer low registration and fuel fees for pilots operating there. "Those fees have not been raised in years, and the hope is that will continue to attract general aviation to our state," she notes.
Additional information about New Hampshire aviation, including how to make individual contributions to the aeronautical fund, is available through the state's Bureau of Aeronautics.