The National Academies

ACRP 03-38 [Completed]

Understanding FAA Grant Assurance Obligations

  Project Data
Funds: $150,000
Research Agency: Unison Consulting, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Barry Molar
Effective Date: 7/28/2015
Completion Date: 12/12/2017


The Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) provides grants to public agencies and, in some cases, to private owners and entities for the planning and development of public-use airports that are included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Eligible projects include improvements that enhance airport safety, capacity, and security, as well as projects that diminish environmental problems and concerns. In general, airport sponsors can use AIP funds on most airfield capital improvements or repairs and, in some specific situations, for terminals, hangars, and non-aviation development. Professional services that are necessary for eligible projects — such as planning, surveying, and design — are also eligible. Aviation demand at the airport must justify the projects, which must also meet federal environmental and procurement requirements. What is critical is that airports sponsors who accept an AIP grant must also accept conditions and obligations associated with these grants. These conditions and obligations are known as grant assurance obligations. Grant assurance obligations include specific requirements to operate and maintain the airport in a safe and serviceable condition, mitigate hazards to airspace, use airport revenue properly, and not grant exclusive rights. Given the competitiveness of the AIP and the complexity of the implementation requirements, airport leaders and other stakeholders have often had difficulty understanding the breadth and depth of the associated grant assurance obligations. Contributing to this problem, local officials and the public may not fully understand that local practices must not be in conflict with those obligations. Further, grant recipients do not always realize that misunderstandings can lead to situations that jeopardize an airport’s compliance with FAA obligations which, in turn, can also lead to possible penalties. Guidance is needed to educate all stakeholders, and to help alleviate the confusion, varying interpretations, and misunderstandings that have occurred in the past or may occur in the future. In response, this research will provide airport sponsors, consultants, and affected communities with a guide to understanding the FAA obligations in terms that are easily understood and applied.


The objective of this research was to produce a guidebook intended to be a comprehensive resource summarizing, in a concise and easy-to-understand format, requirements for compliance with Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant assurance obligations and associated implications. The primary audience for this guidebook includes airport owners, policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders. This guidebook identifies necessary resources, delineate steps required to access those resources, and summarize content and directives. Necessary resources include the following:
  • Related policies,
  • Advisory circulars,
  • Case law,
  • Guidance letters,
  • Applicable studies,
  • Orders, and
  • Other related publications.

Research addressed the following:
  1. Building on the list provided in the Special Notes section of this RFP, collect existing documents that address requirements of grant assurance obligations; review FAA documentation; and request feedback from FAA compliance specialists, including representatives from at least a sample of the 10 block grant states;
  2. Review the FAA’s Airport Compliance Division Part 16 decisions, FAA policies, FAA Order 5190.6B, grant assurances, FAA re-authorization legislation, and other sources, to gain understanding of issues affecting compliance;
  3. Develop language to explain the definitions, applications, and implications of each FAA grant assurance obligations;
  4. Develop a strategy for categorizing grant assurance obligations (i.e., project-related, airport operations-related, other sponsor-related actions), addressing applicability and duration;
  5. As an interim product, prepare a draft layout of the guidebook, the final version of which will include an easy-to-reference cover page for each grant assurance obligation (illustrative aids to help convey the information are recommended as part of the proposed products); and
  6. Carry out discussions and review material with FAA compliance specialists who may be important resources for examples of grant assurance obligation issues and interpretations.
This guidebook is complete, offering a resource addressing everyday issues that arise at airports.

STATUS: The final products and links include the following:


ACRP Research Report 184: Executive Summary for the Guidebook on Understanding FAA Grant Assurance Obligations



Web-Only Document 44 Vol. 1: Understanding FAA Grant Assurance Obligations - Guidebook



Web-Only Document 44 Vol. 2: Understanding FAA Grant Assurance Obligations - Technical Appendices



Web-Only Document 44 Vol. 3: Understanding FAA Grant Assurance Obligations - Research Report



Web-Only Document 44 Vol. 4: Understanding FAA Grant Assurance Obligations - Summary of AIP Grant Assurance Requirements

PPT Version

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