July 2001 (Updated January 2002)


Early Project Planning

Airport proprietors are responsible for planning and developing airports. The FAA provides planning guidance, technical services, and financial assistance. Airport proprietors normally hire consultants to assist in planning. Technically sound airport planning, with appropriate consideration of environmental factors and major community concerns, are important elements for the successful completion of the environmental process in the least amount of time.

  • Planning information is the backbone of environmental analysis. It defines the proposed project, reasonable alternatives, and the scope and accuracy of the analysis of impacts. Planning information includes important elements, such as aviation forecasts, airport capacity, facility requirements, timing and phasing of development, projected user activity and fleet mix, runway utilization and flight tracks, airspace analysis, linkage versus independent utility of planned projects. Airport proprietors, FAA, and consultants need to assure that planning information is technically sound and reasonably current. Problems encountered with planning information during an EIS will delay progress. At worst, the proposed project and reasonable alternatives may need to be modified, setting the environmental work and schedule back substantially.
  • It is important to consider environmental factors at an early stage in airport planning. At a minimum, FAA advises airport proprietors to identify major environmental impacts and concerns that have an important influence on the proprietor's evaluation and selection of a proposed project. These may range from an impact that is a primary community concern, such as aircraft noise, to an impact that poses a legal barrier, such as jeopardy of an endangered species. Either case may be of sufficient merit and importance to affect the airport proprietor's basic planning. The late identification of governing environmental constraints is likely to delay the environmental process.
  • The early consideration of environmental factors can be expanded to include a detailed inventory of the existing environment in the airport vicinity (e.g., noise, air quality, water quality, environmental justice populations), including environmental resources (e.g., wetlands, historic sites, endangered species). Such an inventory can serve the dual purpose of providing improved early environmental information to assist the airport proprietor in selecting a proposed project alternative and of providing the existing environmental baseline for the subsequent EIS.
  • Planning data and environmental inventories prepared as part of master planning become outdated over time, decreasing their usefulness for the environmental process. The closer in time that an EIS can follow an airport master plan, the less the potential problem with data currency and validity.