Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
Subcommittee on Aviation
Hearing on “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: State of American Airports”
March 1, 2017
(Remarks as Prepared)
Today the Aviation Subcommittee is holding the second of its hearings in the 115th Congress in preparation for FAA reauthorization.
As all of you know, the focus of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this year is “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America.” Today, we will be looking at the current state of our Nation’s airports and their role in a 21st century transportation network.
Airports are the most visible piece of physical infrastructure in the air transportation system, and the place where all flights begin and end.
More than 800 million passengers pass through our Nation’s 509 commercial service airports on U.S. air carriers each year, a figure that is projected to grow to 1 billion within 10 years.
Our Nation is home to three of the ten busiest airports in terms of passengers and eight of the ten busiest airports ranked by the number of aircraft operations.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport tops both categories, earning the title of the world’s busiest airport by any measure.
Our Nation’s airport infrastructure is not limited to just passenger service airports. It also includes small general aviation airports that are located in every Congressional district, including five in my own district.
These airports may be small, but they play a vital role in connecting remote communities, providing emergency services, fostering small business development, and teaching a new generation how to fly.
No other country supports its airport infrastructure to the degree and scope of the United States.
In partnership with states and municipalities, the Federal government supports airport infrastructure development in a number of ways, including Airport Improvement Program grants, passenger facility charges, and favorable tax treatment of airport bonds.
Increasingly, however, there is a perception that American airports are falling behind their global competitors.
In a 2016 ranking by the Skytrax World Airport Awards, the best performing American airport was Denver International in 28th place.
According to a 2015 FAA analysis, nine of the country’s largest airports will be capacity constrained by 2030, even if all planned improvements are implemented.
At the other end of the spectrum, available flights to smaller cities and rural communities are declining, decreasing connectivity and leaving airports with huge maintenance costs for oversized facilities.
Not only must Congress be mindful that our Nation’s airports need to plan for and be capable of handling future passenger growth, but we must remember the needs of smaller communities and those impacted by declining air service.
Our panel today represents a broad range of airports in terms of both size and geography. Each airport is also from a state or district represented on the Aviation Subcommittee, and each witness brings a unique perspective on the state of America’s airports.
I look forward to their testimony on how Congress can help facilitate the building of a 21st century aviation infrastructure.
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