Commercialisation of small US Airports – part one: P3 deals rally in Paine Field and New Haven

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Although the leasing of airports by the private sector in the US has been permitted since 1997, it has never really taken off – as CAPA - Centre for Aviation has frequently reported, despite the manipulation of the regulations that has taken place to help it to do so.

In recent years, though, there has been a continuing momentum towards public-private partnerships, or P3s as they are known in North America, to construct essential infrastructure at large, primary airports. At the same time, at smaller ones the P3 initiative has allowed for a greater degree of private-sector investment, mainly to enable growth infrastructure (typically a new or extended terminal), without the degree of commitment that a formal lease agreement would place on both parties.

Two P3 projects have been completed in recent years, on the west and east coasts, and both seem to be progressing well so far. A third remains in abeyance while an environmental audit is completed.

Common to two of those deals is Avports – the largest private manager of small airports in the US, which seems to be shifting its ambitions in favour of these P3 deals. In the latest one it has taken on the airport at Manassas in Virginia, close to Washington DC, where it finds itself with numerous challenges, but also plenty of opportunities.

This is part one of a two-part report.

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