Climate change considerations, public-private partnerships for small and midsize airport projects, and urban air mobility infrastructure are some of the major issues for the U.S. aviation sector—along with optimism regarding new U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“It’s been a while since we saw a Secretary with this kind of background and energy and early focus on infrastructure,” said Lawrence J. Krauter, CEO of the Spokane Airport System, referring to Buttigieg.

Krauter spoke at the Airport Planning, Design & Construction Symposium held virtually the week of March 1, co-sponsored by the Airport Consultants Council and the American Association of Airport Executives.

Winsome Lenfert, deputy associate administrator for airports with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), told attendees that the Biden administration is stressing climate change, infrastructure funding and accessibility in transportation.

She added that the FAA is doing research on unpiloted aerial vehicles and the future impact on airports. “Pavements, departure areas, security, wildlife mitigation … are always a huge conversation,” she said.

A full advisory circular regarding vertiports—infrastructure that will accommodate landings and takeoffs of air taxis—is expected to come out in 2024, she said, noting that the types of vehicles will vary. “Some of these vehicles can use the heliports of today. … Some may need a short runway,” she said, noting that building and parking garage roofs might also be used.

Louis Wolinetz, a principal consultant with WSP USA, said a research report on the status of public-private partnerships for airport projects will be released this spring. “We looked back at every single deal we could find … from a $12-million project in Austin to a $2.7-billion deal for Newark [airport],” he said. The report will include a web-based interactive P3 readiness assessment tool.