[KSTP]: An Airport Example Showing Declining Traffic Levels & Ongoing Federal Subsidies

A recent article offers plenty of pro-airport spin, in support of the St. Paul Downtown Airport [KSTP], 8-miles northeast of the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport [KMSP]. In early 2018, the Super Bowl will be held in the Minneapolis area, so this article aims to justify airport investments for the roughly 100 bizjets expected to transport elite fans through KSTP for that pro sports event.

Below is the data that reveals the spin/propaganda aspect of the article. First is a table showing annual airport operations (takeoffs and landings per day) from 1990 through 2015, based on FAA’s ATADS data. KSTP peaked in 1990, and has been in steady decline ever since. The 2015 operations are down 70% from the historic peak!

A 70% decline is enormous, but it is far from unusual. An extensive analysis was done last January, and it showed that, for the 504 towered airports in the U.S., the average 2014 traffic was down 45% below Peak Year. Check out the scrollable PDF for all 504 airports, at this link.

KSTP ATADS data, 1990-2015:

Year Commercial Ops % Commercial TOTAL OPS Change from Peak Year
1990 9,440 5% 190,507 PEAK YEAR
1991 7,821 5% 168,450 -12%
1992 4,614 3% 152,378 -20%
1993 4,345 3% 131,388 -31%
1994 8,036 5% 146,839 -23%
1995 7,412 6% 133,686 -30%
1996 4,805 3% 139,056 -27%
1997 4,351 3% 135,079 -29%
1998 5,316 3% 158,705 -17%
1999 5,673 4% 158,808 -17%
2000 8,333 5% 158,216 -17%
2001 8,058 6% 142,794 -25%
2002 11,103 6% 171,628 -10%
2003 10,345 8% 131,794 -31%
2004 11,956 9% 127,478 -33%
2005 10,865 8% 131,708 -31%
2006 12,117 9% 135,156 -29%
2007 11,910 10% 118,158 -38%
2008 10,777 10% 110,634 -42%
2009 8,378 9% 91,551 -52%
2010 8,770 10% 89,068 -53%
2011 9,046 10% 86,986 -54%
2012 8,349 10% 79,918 -58%
2013 7,910 12% 68,160 -64%
2014 7,311 11% 64,539 -66%
2015 6,509 11% 56,676 -70%

For the timeframe 2009 through 2014, AIP grants average $290,189 per year, thus an $8 per flight subsidy. This is actually a very low level of airport subsidy, compared to most U.S. airports. But nonetheless, it reflects a reality: we have thousands of underused airports in our National Airspace System, being funded with grants issued each fiscal year. Lots of airports translates to a lot of money spent, simply to maintain – to rehabilitate asphalt, for example – and, in the process, there is enormous potential for politically-connected officials and contractors to reap narrowly focused benefits.

Year # Amount AIP Grant – Project Description
2011 20 $913,758 Rehabilitate Taxiway [Segment South of Rwy 9/27]
2012 21 $198,990 Rehabilitate Taxiway [Segment North of Rwy 9/27]
2014 22 $628,387 Rehabilitate Taxiway, Rehabilitate Taxiway Lighting