Two key statistics should be tracked and reported annually:
- Based aircraft, with N-number:
- Operations (takeoff or landing, by type)
- Air Carrier (Airline Aircraft with more than 60 seats)
- Air Taxi (Part 139 Charter and Airline with less than 60 seats)
- General Aviation Local (aircraft that stay within 20 miles of the airport)
- General Aviation Itinerant
Each year, the FAA documents the based aircraft and operations at your airport for a baseline and projects that should happen at your airport over the next 25 years in the Terminal Area Forecast.
According to the FAA, “These forecasts are prepared to meet the budget and planning needs of FAA and provide information for use by state and local authorities, the aviation industry, and the public.” The words “budget and planning” should be the main focus. The level of activity at your airport is used in determining the distribution of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funds. Therefore, the busier your airport is, the more funding you are typically eligible to receive, allowing your airport to effectively compete for discretionary funding. The FAA also uses the number and type of based aircraft along with aviation activity as factors in classifying different types of airports.
These statistics and FAA forecasts are used to justify future projects needed at your airport. As airport planners, we often find airport activity levels have not been updated and truly verified for several years. Without this trend line of accurate data, it may be difficult to justify your next airport improvement.
Determining the number of operations at your airport may be difficult, unless you have an air traffic control tower. There are several means acceptable to the FAA, such as: acoustical, guest logs, pneumatically, video image detection and estimating from fuel records, recording a few sample days during the year or obtaining FAA flight plan records for your airport.
For based aircraft, keeping track should be a relatively simple task for the airport operator. Open the hangars, look for tie-downs and record the N-numbers, whether it’s a single, twin (piston or turboprop) or jet. This may not be simple for all airport operators, because you may not have access to all the hangars. If this is the case, include a simple “based aircraft reporting form” when you send out invoices for hangar rent, asking the form be returned with their payment. Fixed Base Operators (FBO) typically keep track of all the aircraft in the hangars for space rented.
So how do you report based aircraft and operations to the FAA? For commercial service airports, you will update activity counts during your annual FAA certification inspections.
For all other airports, report operations activity directly to your state aeronautics agency and they can update your FAA 5010 Master Record. For based aircraft at non-primary airports, the FAA operates a National Based Aircraft Inventory Program, at www.basedaircraft.com. This program allows you, as the airport manager or sponsor, to easily enter the aircraft on your airport, by N-number, on this website. You can update this data as frequently as you would like, but it should be edited and verified at least annually.
All you are required to enter is the N-number of your airport’s based aircraft and the system will show the aircraft model, type and registered owner. If you have new aircraft based at your airport, include comments on the date of arrival and your initials so you receive credit. Your state aeronautics agency may update and verify your counts, but you, as the sponsor, are encouraged to update information to ensure the aircraft listed as based for your airport are correct. Keeping track of based aircraft and printing reports whenever you choose is a benefit of using this program. The data from this program is also used to update your 5010 record.
Once you have reported your airport activity, this data will be used for the previously mentioned forecasts and several other purposes within the FAA – including awarding grant funds for your next project.