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Thursday, August 4, 2011 - 9:04am

FAA Shutdown Worries Rural Airports

Operators of small rural Georgia airports are getting increasingly worried over the Congressional stalemate of FAA funding. And those worries go beyond furloughs and expansion projects.

In Georgia, 95 of 104 publicly-owned airports serve only private and corporate aviation, They have a heavy reliance on the annual federal entitlement money now suspended, money from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

The director of the Griffin-Spalding County airport 45 miles south of Atlanta calls his a ‘mom and pop’ operation. Robert Mohl says not only is funding for a planned expansion on-hold, but so is critical money his and other small airports need for safety upgrades.

“Some tree-topping, hopefully a new beacon tower…maybe some fencing. Those are critical safety items for small airports.”

Mohl says his airport has been getting an annual $150,000 from the FAA. And small airports like his often 'bank' that money until they need it for planned projects. He says some of that money was used last year.

“We did a project where we totally resurfaced runways and taxiways and repainted and restriped them. And that was a $350,000 job. Well, we wouldn’t be able to do that this year with the FAA shutdown and no projects being done.”

Mohl says a much bigger project is in the works--a new Griffin airport that would double the length of the current airport's runway capacity. All together, it's a $60 million project that would be completed in stages until a planned opening in 2019. Right now it's in the early stages, with the next step of land acquisition. But that's now on hold.

Even worse says Mohl, a special state aviation grant (from the One Georgia program) was eliminated this year due to budget constraints.