2. Refueling and Support Infrastructure
There are nearly 20,000 public and private airports in the United States, with over 5,000 designated for public use. Of these, more than 3,000 are within the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS, Figure 1) . This airport system was largely subsidized by the rapid expansion of airfields during World War II. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to subsidize NPIAS-listed airports through its trust fund (which includes revenue from fuel and passenger ticket taxes) and the Federal General Fund. These investments represent an opportunity for aircraft users, as they ensure proximity to local airports in any part of the United States. Conversely, they are also a barrier to the introduction of new technologies with infrastructure requirements that are incompatible with the current airport system, particularly any that require fuels that cannot be stored or dispensed in a manner
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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
consistent with today’s liquid hydrocarbon paradigm. Given the remoteness and relatively sparse use of some of these airports, the business case of investing in electrical charging stations, pressurized and/or cryogenic storage tanks, battery “hot-swap” storage, or other alternative refueling/recharging concepts will most likely not close for the municipalities and small businesses that provide traditional fuel services at many of these airports, at least in the near-term. Yet, without this investment, widespread adoption of electric aircraft that require specialized facilities will be stymied.
Figure 1: The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems consisted of 3,380 airports in 2010 .