Helping airport operators align community expectations with airport roles

Posted in: Air Service, Aviation


Do you struggle with how to describe air service to your local elected officials? Or how to explain what it means to have incompatible land use issues? Or even how to quantify and communicate the economic impact your airport might have on your local community?

These issues and more are addressed in the recently released Airport Cooperative Research Program Report 155. This report is the first of ACRP’s new WebResources series. Mead & Hunt led this research project and developed the content contained on the website.

Report 155: Aligning Community Expectations with Airport Roles provides airports with information, resources and tools to address public relations and community expectations. The report covers a wide range of topics of concern regarding the operation and existence of local airports. Communicating proactively is often the most effective method for addressing concerns. This web-based resource provides the user with a general knowledge of the topics and the opportunity to delve deeper into topics of particular interest. It includes interactive tools, worksheets and checklists.

The website is organized around three toolkits. These guide the user based on their specific questions or concerns.

  • The “Role of the Airport” section explains the many roles an airport can play within a community.
  • The “Aviation Toolkit” provides information on specific aviation-related topics and subtopics.
  • The “Media Toolkit” contains guidance on methods to effectively engage local community stakeholders.

Many of the topics covered include links and references to additional resources that provide more detailed information, such as other ACRP documents or Federal Aviation Administration guidance.

The topics covered were identified through extensive outreach. We interviewed aviation professionals, as well as the planning and economic development communities. This helped us understand the pressing topics, questions and concerns that communities have about their airports, as misunderstandings of these can sometimes cause contention in a local community. These professionals’ input helped shape the website’s three toolkits, allowing your airport to benefit from their knowledge.

Seeing this project come to life is very exciting for me. I’ve watched our industry transition over the past two decades. I hope this resource will provide a new generation of airport managers and sponsors with valuable information to make decisions and educate the public on important aviation issues. For example, I’ve seen a lot of general aviation airports go from being managed by pilots who owned and operated FBOs to city staff who may not have an aviation background. These new managers aren’t as deeply entrenched in the day-to-day workings of the airport, so often questions about the airport are hard for them to explain. Conversely, in this new era, airports are increasingly under the microscope and must justify their existence and role in the community.

We’re hopeful this website will help address these issues, and will provide the industry with guidance that we heard — time and time again during our extensive outreach — was necessary.


Stephanie Ward, AICP

About the Author

As an aviation planner and pilot, Stephanie Ward brings unique understanding to her projects, big and small. She is passionate about working with communities and airport sponsors to keep airports viable. When she isn’t traveling for work, she enjoys using her frequent flyer miles to explore the U.S.

Read more posts by Stephanie Ward, AICP

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