Accredited Airport Executive Program


Becoming an Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.) is a great way to command respect in the airport industry. Since 1954, AAAE has been committed to the advancement of aviation professionals by granting the A.A.E. designation to those who have demonstrated their ability to handle the responsibilities of airport management.  The program is open to Affiliate members of AAAE and IAAE. The Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.) is a useful credential when seeking employment within the airport management profession. 

Candidates in the A.A.E. program will obtain the designation by completing a three step process - (1) a 180-question, multiple-choice examination; (2) a management research paper, case study, proctored essay examination, or proof of an advanced degree; and (3) a final interview with a panel of A.A.E.s.  You can complete the program in any order, but the final interview must be the final step.  There are no time limits for program completion; however, after five full years in the program, you must pay an administrative fee of $100 annually until the program has been completed.   Should you cancel your enrollment or fail to pay the $100 administrative fee, and wish to resume your program studies at a later date, you will need to pay a $250 re-enrollment fee.  
AAE Program Application
(Adobe PDF File)

*You must be an Affiliate member of AAAE or IAAE to enroll in the Accreditation Program.
Click here to join, if you are not an active Affiliate member.

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How should I choose a topic for my research paper or case study?
For the management research paper:
Your topic should be an expression of your professional and personal interest. Recognize that many topics are too narrow to be developed into a management paper. It's important that your paper be relevant and valuable to other airport managers; given this criterion, your subject should not be a description of a unique activity, incident, or process at your airport. Rather, in a management research paper, you propose a set of guidelines for managing a problem or sets forth an argument for implementing a project or using a methodology. Focusing on a topic that is broadly applicable to many airports, you bring your experience and research findings to bear on your analysis. Both the examples cited and the research data (including personal interviews and surveys) that are used to support your analysis come from more than a few sources.

For the case study:
A case study is essentially a report in which you recount/analyze the steps or measures taken by your airport or airport system (same ownership) in implementing a project or managing a problem. It is essentially a how-we-did-it kind of process analysis, complete with data used by your airport or airport system for the project. Your topic should, therefore, be one that lends itself to such an analysis. The study should contribute something innovative and unique to airport management.

Visit the AAAE library to view Management Papers/Case Studies from other candidates. To view a listing of possible paper topics, click here.

I've chosen my topic. What's the next step?
All candidates are required to send the topic along with a proposed paragraph outline to accreditation@aaae.org.  The outline must include a stated objective for the paper or case study, as well as a short description of each section and subsection. For your reference, a sample topic outline is available in the AAAE Accreditation Program Study Guide, along with further guidelines for the Management Research Paper and Case Study. Your topic and outline will be assessed by an editor and, if necessary, be returned to you with suggested revisions. Please allow at least three weeks to receive your assessment.

Please note that, if you do not develop an approved outline into the first draft of your paper within a year of the outline's approval, the topic and outline may need to be re-validated by the accreditation department.

What if someone else has already written a paper on my topic?
Since different candidates may have different perspectives on a particular topic, AAAE allows four to six management papers or case studies on the same topic. However, if it is determined that a particular subject has been thoroughly explored and cannot be effectively investigated further, you will be required to choose a new topic.

How should my paper or case study be formatted?
All papers and case studies are required to be written in APA style. They must be between 20 and 30 pages double-spaced excluding cover sheets, tables of contents, notes, bibliography, exhibits, and appendices, and formatted for 8.5 x 11 inch paper using a 12-point Times New Roman font. The final draft must be saved as a Word 97-2003 document with all necessary information (cover page, bibliography, etc.) contained in one file. The AAAE Accreditation Program Study Guide contains a sample management research paper and guidelines on formatting. Be sure to consult this guide before submitting the first draft of your paper.

May I submit a paper or case study I've already written?
Yes, but you must be the sole author, and your paper or case study must conform to the formatting guidelines as well as meet all the standards set by the Board of Examiners; the subject matter and the data must be up to date, and you must retain rights to republish the work if it has been published.

How do I submit my paper or case study for review?
Please send first outlines and drafts of your paper or case study to accreditation@aaae.org.

What do members of the Board of Examiners look for when they review my paper or case study?
For the management research paper, papers are evaluated on three basic criteria:

  • Topic:  Topic is related to the airport management field, broadly applicable, and important to professional airport management.
  • Depth:  Discusses the topic and sources' general applicability. The facts of the paper are relevant, accurate, and correct.
  • Quality:  An excellent, well-organized essay that presents a focused, coherent, and convincing interpretation of ideas.

For the case study, case studies are evaluated on three basic criteria:

  • Topic:  The topic is both related to and important to the airport management field.
  • Depth:  An effective case study is an in-depth analysis of a situation or a unique solution to a problem or a project undertaken at a specific airport. The information and data presented are both relevant and accurate. The insights gained from the study contribute to knowledge about airport management.
  • Quality:  An effective case study is well organized, focused, cohesive, clear, and free from major errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage.

How long will it take to find out if a paper or case study has been approved?
Your paper will first go through a round of reviews with an editor before being submitted to the BOE. This can be a lengthy process depending on how many rounds of editing the paper goes through. AAAE will notify you via e-mail if your paper has been approved, within 8 weeks of it being submitted to the Board of Examiners for formal review.

What happens if my paper is not approved by the BOE?
Unsuccessful papers are returned to the candidate with comments and suggestions for revising the paper. After the revision, the paper can then be resubmitted.

Where may I see sample approved papers and case studies?
Browse previously submitted papers and case studies at AAAE's library. Note that not all papers are available online. However, all available titles are listed, and you may use the search function to see if your topic has been heavily covered and to download a PDF version to view or request from AAAE.   Additionally, the AAAE Accreditation Study Guide includes a sample Management Research Paper and Case Study in Appendices D & E, respectfully.

What happens to my paper after it's been accepted?
Your paper or case study will enter AAAE's library, one of the few authoritative sources in the country with information on airport management. Here, your paper is available as a resource to airport managers worldwide.

How do I complete the proctored essay?
Please refer to the AAAE Accreditation Study Guide prior to selecting the proctored essay option to fulfill your accreditation writing requirement.

The policy guidelines are as follows:

  1. Arrange for an eligible proctor to administer the essay exam. Eligible proctors includes: an active A.A.E., a high school principal, a college professor, the administrator of a testing center, or an AAAE staff member who is not an executive candidate.
  2. At least two weeks before the exam, the proctor must send a signed letter on a letterhead to the accreditation department, indicating the candidate's name, member number, and the place and time of the essay exam.
  3. Access to the Internet via a laptop or PC is required. You will be permitted to consult reference materials and access the Internet during the exam.
  4. You will be required to answer two industry-related questions in essay form within a four-hour time limit. Upon gaining access to the proctored essay site, you will be prompted to select two topics relative to airport management. One question per topic will be automatically generated based on your selections. You will be expected to address each of the questions from the standpoint that you are the Executive Director of an airport, and that the response is an executive level memo or report to be provided to a board, council or other legislative body.  A minimum of 600 words is required for each.

    The topics include:
    • Communications and Community Relations
    • Operations and Maintenance
    • Planning, Construction, and Environmental
    • Administration and Finance
  5. If you fail to answer both questions correctly, you may retake the essay exam in full after a 90-day waiting period. There is no limit to the number of times you can retake the essay exam; however, there is a $75 re-take fee.

How will the proctored essay be evaluated?
The proctored essay will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Organization:  An effective essay response has a clear beginning-middle-end structure and the discussion flows smoothly from one point to the next.
  • Quality:  In an effective essay response, the sentences are clear, concise, coherent, and free from errors in grammar, punctuation and usage.
  • Depth:  An effective essay correctly responds to the question and supports generalizations with ample and accurate details, examples, or facts.
Both responses must meet the above criteria in order for the candidate to successfully complete the proctored essay. 


As a guideline to what makes a good essay response, the Board of Examiners has provided the information below.

Every essay question must contain four (4) essential elements:
  • The response should provide an opening statement (thesis) which captures the main argument for the answer. It must be clear and coherent, and should provide a solid introduction to the overall answer.
  • The essay response must offer supporting evidence. The candidate must provide the supporting evidence in paragraph (not bullet or list) form. Each paragraph must contain evidence supporting one idea or concept which proves the thesis statement. The writer must provide citations (in footnote, endnote, or in parenthetical form) for all evidence presented. Plagiarism is unacceptable and is grounds for failing the exam. 
  • Every essay must follow basic rules of format and grammar. Every essay must contain a beginning, a middle (several supporting paragraphs that comprise the body of the essay), and an end (concluding paragraph). Grammar is vital for essay composition. Sentence fragments, misspellings, and improper punctuation denote a carelessly-written and poorly-conceived answer.
  • The essay must address all elements of the question. The recommended format is that of a formal report written in the third person for the benefit of a governing body, supervisor, or senior management as appropriate. There is no need to preface the answer or state assumptions. Unless otherwise stated, the response should represent a medium hub airport director’s response.
Will a master's degree satisfy the writing requirement?
If you have earned an advanced degree (master's and above) from an accredited university, you should request the university to send your transcript of records to:

Attn: Accreditation Department
The Barclay Building
601 Madison Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

You will receive official notification via e-mail after your transcript has been verified.

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