Strategic Development FAQ
What is the effect of the Coronavirus; doesn’t it eliminate the need for expansion?
It is normal for aviation demand and economy to see sudden dips, as well as periods of above-average growth. When viewed over decades, aviation has grown steadily and predictably.
There is no reason to believe that near-term swings in passenger numbers will invalidate our 20-year planning forecast. However, with FAA concurrence, SAAS has decided to shift the projection by two years. In other words, the demand projected for 2040 is now expected to occur by 2042.
For more information, we invite you to read the Strategic Development Plan chapter entitled Aviation Demand Forecast, which contains historical information back to 1968. Also posted on this website is the August 4, 2021 technical memorandum, Planning Forecast — Proposed Interim COVID Adjustment Approach, documenting the rationale behind the two-year demand shift.
The forecast serves the purposes of our ongoing long-term planning efforts; we will not seek to construct any projects until justified by actual demand. Lastly, we will also update the long-term plans for SAT every five to nine years, which will include a new forecast.
How is SAT evaluating noise before anything is built or a major runway is closed?
Noise will be considered in two ways in this planning process.
- The Strategic Development Plan team will develop a 20-year noise footprint of the preferred airfield alternative.
- Before starting construction projects, airports must produce supporting documentation and obtain environmental approvals under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), such as an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. Changes in noise contours caused by the projects for which we will seek approval will be identified. Areas newly affected by a proposed project will likely be eligible for FAA-funded noise mitigation (which could include acquisition, acoustical treatment, and easements). It is important to note that we will implement most projects in increments, each of which will require approval before construction.
I understand there are impacts to Randolph and other Joint Base San Antonio missions; how are they part of the Strategic Development Plan?
Currently, there are manageable airspace conflicts with both Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) and Lackland AFB/Kelly Airfield when using Runway 4-22. Therefore, the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower at SAT is in continuous communication with the Air Traffic Control Towers at Randolph AFB and Lackland AFB/Kelly Airfield to manage the existing air traffic interdependence.
The San Antonio Airport System is fully committed to supporting the mission of all JBSA operations. Representatives of JBSA serve on the Strategic Development Plan Technical Advisory Committee, Transportation and Planning Partners Working Group, and the Stakeholder Working Group.
How many Strategic Development Plan advisory group meetings have been held?
Throughout the SDP, the three advisory groups held 16 meetings.
The groups include: the Technical Advisory Committee, which is comprised of people representing organizations that are involved in aviation, such as the FAA, airlines, Joint Base San Antonio, and airport tenants; the Transportation and Planning Partners Working Group, which has members from organizations responsible for transportation and urban planning in the region, such as VIA and TxDOT; and the Stakeholder Working Group, which consists of members representing neighborhood alliances and others with a vested interest in the airport, such as business and tourism organizations.
When will Runway 4-22 be downsized or closed, and no longer be an option for air carriers?
Crosswind Runway 4-22 will not be closed as part of the 2040 plan. It may need to be closed once it exceeds its useful pavement life which is expected to be around the year 2050. At that time, we expect that the FAA will not likely fund its future reconstruction because Runway 4-22 is no longer needed as a crosswind runway per FAA wind coverage requirements. This is a national FAA policy that affects many US airports.
This runway also provides SAT with a backup air carrier runway until a parallel runway is built (also not required until sometime well after 2040), and we will keep Runway 4-22 open and in use as long as possible.
Would the SAT airfield expansion be a financial burden on the City of San Antonio or the taxpayers?
No. Airfield projects are mostly funded from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) fund administered by the FAA. As with highway improvements that are funded through fuel taxes and other vehicle-related fees, AIP funds come from passenger ticket taxes and aircraft fuel taxes, meaning that airfield projects are funded by users of the aviation system. They are NOT funded by local, county or state taxes paid by residents.
Additional funding for airport improvements such as terminals comes from other airline- or passenger-based fees, such as the passenger facility charge, fuel flowage fees, aircraft landing fees, airport rents, and airport revenue bonds. However, the City may choose to fund portions of the development cost.
Are airlines willing to start flights to Europe from SAT?
While air carriers periodically show interest in serving Europe from San Antonio, there currently is no such route from SAT. Certain aircraft can already reach western European cities from our existing runways, so a runway extension is not necessary today. However, based on our projected passenger and economic growth, we expect demand for European or farther destinations to happen within the Strategic Development Plan’s 20-year planning period. Should an airline commit to offering such service, the airport, as part of the City of San Antonio’s transportation infrastructure, needs to be able to accommodate it. This means that we must plan for it now. Common international aircraft, such as the Boeing 787, that fly to farther European, South American, or even Asian destinations, would require a runway extension. Up to a total length of 10,000 feet could be needed and the SDP’s 2040 airfield plan provides for this length, which can be accommodated on the property.
When will you start construction?
Construction of major projects resulting from the Strategic Development Plan will commence years from now. After the plan is adopted by the City of San Antonio and approved by the FAA, environmental and financial approvals will be needed before engineering design can start, followed by construction of the first projects. These steps will take several years.
Will you be acquiring land to increase the length of the runway, and if so, when?
Land acquisition is required not for any extensions of the runway itself but may be for the edges of the protective surfaces beyond the end of the extended runways (most of which the City already owns). Because improvements in the next 20 years will be made on an incremental basis (for example, taxiway improvements and incremental runway extensions), it will be up to 20 years before we would require additional land. In the meantime, if property near the ends of the main runway or around the airport perimeter becomes available for sale, we hope to be able to buy and hold it for future aeronautical use.
Why are you not looking at building a new airport?
We looked at and answered that question in Phase 1 of the Strategic Development Plan (SDP). The airport can be made to fit in its current location for the next 50 years. A new airport is therefore not required, will not be eligible for FAA funding, could not obtain environmental approvals, and therefore could not be built. In Phase 1, a White Paper was developed on this topic. Please see “New Airport Implementation Process Overview.”
This paper generally describes the process, associated timeline, order of magnitude cost, and what a typical new airport would most likely look like. The high-growth scenario of the San Antonio International Airport’s SDP 20-year forecast, which was reviewed and accepted by the FAA, was extrapolated to 2068 to define the needs that a new airport would have to accommodate. This forecast and the decision that no new airport is needed were also reviewed and accepted by the Mayor-appointed Airport System Development Committee, the three Strategic Development Plan advisory groups, the Airport Advisory Commission, and the San Antonio City Council.
Are there environmental approvals that are needed before the airport can expand?
Yes, in two ways: (1) The airport is subject to various permits from past projects and that are required by the City, State and federal government; and (2) Prior to implementing any new projects, the airport carefully follows the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. NEPA is a law about procedure (process) and requires agencies to take a hard look at environmental impacts including whether a project is needed and if any impacts can be avoided. The purpose of NEPA is public disclosure of impacts, and to ensure that federal decision-makers have sought public input and the input of public agencies with special environmental expertise, and that they understand the environmental consequences of their decisions. Adherence to the NEPA process is required for full unconditional approval and thus implementation of projects on an ALP (Airport Layout Plan). This means that projects from the Strategic Development Plan (SDP) will mostly require NEPA approvals prior to moving ahead.
When will Terminal C be built?
The SDP proposes a new Terminal C to provide additional gates as they are needed. It will also provide additional gates as needed to allow the reconstruction of Terminal A over time. While detailed timelines are to be developed, we expect that the terminal will be built by 2030.
What is the difference between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Strategic Development Plan process?
Phase 1 determined that the existing San Antonio International Airport can accommodate the region’s long-term aviation needs and could be made to fit at the current location.
Phase 2 developed the plan to accommodate demand for a 20-year period and produced a preferred airport development plan for the airfield, terminal, and airport access.
What is a “noise contour”? Could aircraft noise be reduced due to new aircraft technology?
A “noise contour” is the “map” of noise exposure around an airport. A contour is computed through a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) model which calculates annual noise exposure. The FAA is phasing out older, noisier commercial aircraft, resulting in some stages of aircraft no longer being in the fleet. Aircraft noise is regulated through standards.
Why are you doing community outreach throughout the city, instead of just around the airport?
The Strategic Development Plan relates to the entire city, and not just the homes and buildings near the airport. San Antonio International Airport is owned by the City of San Antonio, and community members and their visitors from all over the city and region use it. The goal was to inform and engage everyone who wants to learn about and provide input to the SDP.
Why do we say “SAAS” and “SAT?”
“SAAS” refers to “San Antonio Airport System”, which includes both the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and Stinson Municipal Airport (SSF).
“SAT” and “SSF” are the three-letter airport codes abbreviations that were originally created for the convenience of pilots, and now are seen on passengers’ boarding passes and baggage tags.