Airport Categories

The only airports, or portions of airports, eligible for AIP funding are public use airports that serve civil aviation. The definition for airports in the law refers to any area of land or water used or intended for landing or takeoff of aircraft. This includes, within the five categories of airports listed below, special types of facilities including seaplane bases, heliports, and facilities to accommodate tilt rotor aircraft. An airport includes an appurtenant area used or intended for airport buildings, facilities, as well as rights of way together with the buildings and facilities.

The law defines airports by categories of airport activities, including commercial service, primary, cargo service, reliever, and general aviation airports. Categories in the table below are defined as follows:

1. Commercial Service Airports are publicly owned airports that have at least 2,500 passenger boardings each calendar year and receive scheduled passenger service. Passenger boardings refer to revenue passenger boardings on an aircraft in service in air commerce whether or not in scheduled service. The definition also includes passengers who continue on an aircraft in international flight that stops at an airport in any of the 50 States for a non-traffic purpose, such as refueling or aircraft maintenance rather than passenger activity. Passenger boardings at airports that receive scheduled passenger service are also referred to as Enplanements.

a) Nonprimary Commercial Service Airports are Commercial Service Airports that have at least 2,500 and no more than 10,000 passenger boardings each year.

b) Primary Airports are Commercial Service Airports that have more than 10,000 passenger boardings each year. Hub categories for Primary Airports are defined as a percentage of total passenger boardings within the United States in the most current calendar year ending before the start of the current fiscal year. For example, calendar year 2001 data are used for fiscal year 2003 since the fiscal year began 9 months after the end of that calendar year. The table below depicts the formulae used for the definition of airport categories based on statutory provisions cited within the table, including Hub Type described in 49 USC 47102.

2. Cargo Service Airports are airports that, in addition to any other air transportation services that may be available, are served by aircraft providing air transportation of only cargo with a total annual landed weight of more than 100 million pounds. "Landed weight" means the weight of aircraft transporting only cargo in intrastate, interstate, and foreign air transportation. An airport may be both a commercial service and a cargo service airport.

3. Reliever Airports are airports designated by the FAA to relieve congestion at Commercial Service Airports and to provide improved general aviation access to the overall community. These may be publicly or privately-owned.

4. The remaining airports, while not specifically defined in Title 49 USC, are commonly described as General Aviation Airports. This airport type is the largest single group of airports in the U.S. system. The category also includes privately owned, public use airports that enplane 2500 or more passengers annually and receive scheduled airline service. The airport privatization pilot program authorized under Title 49 U.S.C., Section 47134, may affect individual general aviation airports. Under this program, some private rather than public ownership provisions are allowed, and questions on it should be directed to the Airport Compliance Division.

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