Northwest Florida airports benefit from federal grant program

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The Federal Aviation Adminstration’s Airport Improvement Program provides grants to airports across the country for infrastructure needs such as runway repair, terminal maintenance and construction of firefighting faciities. Northwest Florida airports are scheduled to receive millions of dollars in AIP funding, according to FAA announcements.

EGLIN AFB — Airports across Northwest Florida are seeing significant federal investment in recent rounds of grants for infrastructure projects that likely will total millions of dollars, according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration.

In June, for instance, the FAA announced that Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport is slated to receive $11.5 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) dollars, money earmarked for an expansion of the airport apron where aircraft are parked, refueled and boarded or departed. The grant hasn’t yet been formally awarded, and the final amount could vary somewhat from the announced award, according to the FAA.

Airports can receive AIP entitlement funding based on activity levels and airport plan project needs. If project funding needs exceed the entitlement funds available to an airport, the FAA can supplement those dollars with discretionary funding. AIP dollars allow airports to fund improvement projects without taking on debt, but airports that receive AIP funds are required to match anywhere between 5 percent and 25 percent of the grant dollars, according to the FAA.

“Infrastructure projects funded by these grants will advance safety, improve travel, generate jobs and provide other economic benefits for local communities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a news release noting recent Airport Improvement Plan grant awards.

Elsewhere in Okaloosa County, Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, a general aviation facility, is slated to receive $900,000 in AIP grant funding to rehabilitate its runway.  Bob Sikes Airport helps serve local defense and industrial aerospace enterprises.

Okaloosa County Airports Director Tracy Stage, who oversees Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, Bob Sikes Airport and Destin Executive Airport, said AIP grants “help fund priority projects that will improve the functionality, efficiency and development of the airports.”

Other recent local AIP grants include a $300,000 outlay for Santa Rosa County’s Peter Prince Field, a general aviation single-runway facility near Milton. The funding is slated to update the airport’s master plan, according to an FAA listing of recent AIP grant awards.

The area’s two other major commercial airports also are set to receive Airport Improvement Plan dollars.

Pensacola International Airport is in line for more than $3,7 million in grant funds, according to a July announcement. The money will help cover a host of airport projects, from building construction to land acquisition to the purchase of an airport rescue and firefighting vehicle, according to an FAA summary.

In Panama City, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is set to receive $129,308 to help mitigate environmental issues.

The AIP grants received or anticipated locally in recent months are part of the $3.18 billion allocated to the program for the current federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.