Honeyford bill would revitalize rural airports

Senate Bill 5328 passes, 47-0, moves to House

— Operating in the black is a difficult prospect for smaller, regional airports.

Many municipal airports need better access to financing in order to invest in the infrastructure projects they need to keep pace.

A bill offered by Sunnyside Sen. Jim Honeyford would create a Community Aviation Revitalization Board to provide loans to small airports. Senate Bill 5328 passed the Senate on Tuesday with a 47-0 vote.

“This bill will allow some of our smaller airports to attract new business and increase their financial integrity,” Honeyford said. “Existing funding sources are often restricted to purely aviation-related projects, but in order to attract new business, smaller airports need to make other improvements. This bill would provide a source of financing, that must be paid back, but will fill the gap and enable these airports to modernize and operate in a profitable manner.”

There are currently 137 airports available for public use in the state.

These airports are eligible for state funding to preserve and improve their facilities through the Department of Transportation’s Airport Aid Grant program.

The Community Aviation Revitalization Board would supplement the Department of Transportation program and make direct loans to airports for improvements that primarily support general-aviation activities.

Eligible airports must be available for public use and have less than 50,000 annual commercial air service passenger enplanements as published by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Under the bill, repayment must begin three years after a loan is awarded and loans cannot exceed 20 years in duration. The state capital budget, passed earlier this year, allocates $5 million for aviation revitalization loans.

Senate Bill 5328 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.


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