FEBRUARY 8, 2013
The FAA has classified the Hayward Airport as a "national airport," with priority for development grants, as part of a new classification system for general-aviation airports (those that do not provide scheduled airline service). The selection is part of new classification system included in General Aviation Airports: A National Asset, a report released by the FAA in May 2012. (See the May 18, 2012 press release.)
The new categories of general-aviation airports are national, regional, local, and basic. Only 84 general-aviation airports in the U.S. are included in the "national" category.
Although there are more than 19,000 landing facilities in the U.S., fewer than 3,000 of these are general-aviation airports open to the public. These airports, including Hayward, are included in the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems and thus eligible for FAA funding of development (through the Airport Improvement Program).
According to the FAA report, airports in the "national" category are located in metropolitan areas near major business centers and support flying throughout the nation and the world. They support operations by the most sophisticated aircraft in the general aviation fleet. Many flights are by jet aircraft, including corporate and fractional ownership operations and air taxi services. These airports also provide pilots with an alternative to busy primary commercial service airports.
The report emphasizes that general-aviation airports serve "important social needs" such as emergency medical evacuation and law enforcement. However, it does not note that these types of flights are typically exempt from noise-limit laws (like the City of Hayward aircraft noise ordinance) or are served primarily by helicopters, for which noise suppression technology has not been developed.
Although the FAA "study" does provide useful information on the status of general-aviation airports, it reads like a promotion piece for development of these airports. Since the FAA controls AIP funds, and thus can allocate those funds according to its preferred plan of airport development, the "study" represents another example of how the FAA can and does guide airport development toward particular types of or increasingly intensive operations. This activist role of the FAA continues despite the fact that the Congress in 1996 eliminated the FAA's mandate to promote aviation.
Indeed, a section of the report titled "Next Steps" outlines how the FAA intends to guide development of small local airports like Hayward, relying primarily on the leverage of its National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems and state aviation agencies like CalTrans. In this way the aviation industry and airport owners are brought into the FAA's tent and a balanced public interest is precluded.