Provides NE community airports greater certainty during COVID-19 pandemic


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, today introduced the bipartisan Airport Infrastructure Readiness (AIR) Act, which would provide airports with greater certainty as they consider future infrastructure projects in the midst of a pandemic. 

“With the number of flights down significantly this year due to COVID-19, several Nebraska airports are at risk of receiving less federal infrastructure formula funding. The AIR Act temporarily adjusts those calculations. This will give our airports a clearer sense of the formula funding they can expect to receive for infrastructure over the next couple of years as they manage responding to the pandemic.  Doing so will bring more certainty to our airports as they make plans to keep Nebraskans connected in the years ahead,” said Senator Fischer.

“The North Platte Airport Authority is in full support of the Airport Infrastructure Readiness Act of 2020. This would benefit the North Platte, NE community and other similar communities across the country that are questionable to maintain their status as a primary commercial service airport. We will still make the local effort to bring our ridership back up to 2019 numbers where we had outstanding support from the regional community. Nevertheless, the Airport Infrastructure Readiness Act of 2020 allows us the stability to properly plan our upcoming AIP projects without the risk of losing our funding in the next two years,” said Samuel Seafeldt, Airport Manager for the North Platte Regional Airport.

“2020 and Covid 19 have brought many unprecedented changes to our world, the nation and to our local economies.  The AIR Act will provide the funding necessary for my airport, as well as airports nationwide, to continue to complete the safety projects that are required by the FAA so that we may continue to provide a safe and reliable infrastructure for the traveling public,” said Raul Aguallo, Executive Director of Western Nebraska Regional Airport. 

“As we recover from the devastating economic impact of the COVID crisis and begin to grow our economy, funding of airport infrastructure projects will play a big part in our recovery and this Act will provide certainty for us to move forward with planning and design,” said Michael Morgan, City Manager of the City of Kearney.

“With passenger numbers at historic lows, flight schedules changing on a daily basis, and many aeronautical revenue sources unreliable at best, airports are faced with the daunting task of continuing to address critical infrastructure needs in the face of uncertain funding streams.  I sincerely appreciate Sen. Fischer’s efforts to provide airports with a much needed level of stability by working with members of congress to craft a pre pandemic benchmark when considering federal funding levels.  Maintaining this program to the fullest extent possible will provide a vital tool for communities to utilize to aid in job creation and economic recovery,” said David Haring, Executive Director of the Lincoln Airport Authority.

“The Central Nebraska Regional Airport supports the proposed ‘Airport Infrastructure Readiness Act of 2020’.  This bill, will provide the necessary funding for airport projects needed for the safety and security of the air transportation system of the United States. These projects will not only improve the safety and security of our air transportation system, but they will add much needed jobs to help our country recover from the Covid19 pandemic.  The airport also supports halting the benefit-to-cost ratio conducted by the Secretary of Transportation for the Contract Tower Program,” said Michael Olson, Executive Director of the Hall County Airport Authority. 

“As Nebraska airports deal with the significant negative impact on aviation from the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIR Act introduced by Senator Fischer provides welcome stability for critical federal funding for airports, including Eppley Airfield, during this period of uncertainty,”said Dave Roth, Executive Director of the Omaha Airport Authority.

More information:

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program (AIP) provides funding to airports for projects related to aircraft operations, such as runways and taxiways and project planning. AIP funding for primary airports is based on the total number of enplanements (also known as boardings) at the airport.

The AIR Act would require FAA to calculate AIP funding for FY 2022 and FY 2023 based on either 2018 or 2019 enplanement numbers, rather than 2020 and 2021 enplanement numbers which are expected to be significantly lower because of COVID-19. This would provide stability to primary airports in Nebraska regarding what they can expect for AIP funding over the next couple of years as they plan projects.  The AIR Act also waves the benefit cost analysis for airports with contract towers, like the Central Nebraska Regional Airport in Grand Island, for FY 2020 and FY 2021.

The full bill text is available here.