Research Projects

Improving Benefit-Cost Analyses for General Aviation Airports

Assigned to Ike Kelly
Last Edited by Joseph Navarrete

Research is recommended to see how to better capture benefits stemming from proposed projects when conducting BCAs for GA airports.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Benefit-cost analyses (BCAs) are used to assess the net benefits of proposed projects at airports. The FAA provides resources and guidance for conducting benefit-cost analyses to ensure consistent results across the many types of projects eligible for funding. The most common measures of costs and benefits include time; values of life and injury; aircraft capacity, utilization, performance, and operating costs; unit replacement and restoration costs of damaged aircraft; labor; and accident investigation costs. While the traditional benefit-cost calculations seem to provide consistent and actionable determinations for larger (often, air carrier) airports, their inability to capture less tangible benefits appears to undervalue the merits of projects at smaller, typically general aviation airports. This appears to result in GA airports not receiving much needed funding for the projects needed to keep their airport competitive and viable.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objective of this research is to review the current guidance and method for BCAs for airport projects, identify if they adequately capture all the benefits resulting from proposed projects at smaller, general aviation airports, and propose new approaches for incorporating benefits not accounted for in the current method to ensure it captures all potential benefits at smaller, general aviation airports.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The following are some possible tasks:

  1. Conduct literature review.

  2. Review representative BCAs from small general aviation airports to determine if all potential benefits were accounted for and to correlate that with a favorable outcome in terms of funding eligibility.

  3. Conduct outreach to practitioners who typically conduct BCAs to gather insights and recommendations for improving BCA calculations.

  4. Propose recommended improvements, including adjustment to current threshold, to BCA guidance and analysis process.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Based on similar ACRP studies, the likely cost of this project would be $400,000.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

FAA's guidance and supporting documents,

ACRP Research Report 199: Climate Resilience and Benefit-Cost Analysis: A Handbook for Airports.

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Idea No. 736