What's So “Special” About Airport Authorities? Assessing the Administrative Structure of U.S. Airports

Authors

  • Hunter Bacot,

    Corresponding author
    1. Elon University
      Hunter Bacot is director of the Center for Public Opinion Polling and an associate professor of political science and public administration at Elon University in North Carolina. His research focuses on urban policies, including brownfield development, civic culture and urban policy, and city–county consolidation. E-mail:hbacot@elon.edu.
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  • Jack Christine

    Corresponding author
    1. Charlotte Douglas International Airport
      Jack Christine is the airport planner for Charlotte Douglas International Airport; he is responsible for the airport's development program, which includes the design and construction of airfield and terminal expansions. He is also responsible for federal and state grant administration and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Mr. Christine holds an undergraduate degree in aerospace studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master of public administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.E-mail:jlchristine@charlotteairport.com.
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Hunter Bacot is director of the Center for Public Opinion Polling and an associate professor of political science and public administration at Elon University in North Carolina. His research focuses on urban policies, including brownfield development, civic culture and urban policy, and city–county consolidation. E-mail:hbacot@elon.edu.

Jack Christine is the airport planner for Charlotte Douglas International Airport; he is responsible for the airport's development program, which includes the design and construction of airfield and terminal expansions. He is also responsible for federal and state grant administration and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. Mr. Christine holds an undergraduate degree in aerospace studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master of public administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.E-mail:jlchristine@charlotteairport.com.

Abstract

An ample academic literature discusses airports’ utility as economic development anchors for metropolitan areas, yet very little is known about the administrative apparatus of these important local government enterprises. To better understand airport structure and management in the United States, directors of primary airports were surveyed. Based on this national survey, the administrative structure and position of airports with regard to local government—i.e., special district or functional department—were examined to determine the place these entities occupy on the local government management landscape, as well as the implications of retaining airport authorities in studies of special-purpose governments. This essay concludes that airport authorities do not follow the conventional form and function of special-purpose governments. Consequently, analyses of special-purpose governments should exclude airport authorities because these nonconforming entities may cloud rather than clarify our true understanding of special-purpose governments.

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