AIN Blog: FAA To OK Airport Homes

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The FAA reauthorization permits GA airports to enter into residential-through-the-fence agreements with property owners or associations representing property owners. (Photo: Sandy's Airpark @ Sporty's, Batavia, Ohio.)
August 24, 2012 - 11:52am

For those of us who have long dreamed of retiring to an airport home, there is finally some definitive action in the pipeline. Alas, for most of us, that airport residence will likely remain just a dream. But for others, thanks to Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a co-chairman of the House GA caucus, the FAA reauthorization bill that was passed earlier this year includes a provision requiring the FAA to honor residential-through-the-fence (RTTF) agreements that provide pilots with access to general aviation airport runways and taxiways from their private residential property.

On July 30, the FAA published in the Federal Register a proposed policy and gave respondents until August 29 to make comments. The FAA reauthorization permits GA airports to enter into RTTF agreements with property owners or associations representing property owners. The property owner must pay access charges that the sponsor determines to be comparable to those fees charged to tenants and operators on-airport making similar use of the airport; bear the cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure the sponsor determines is necessary to provide access to the airfield from property located adjacent to or near the airport; maintain the property for residential, noncommercial use for the duration of the agreement; prohibit access to the airport from other properties through the property of the property owner; and prohibit any aircraft refueling from occurring on the property.

Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy, said the proposed policy is the FAA’s interpretation of the congressional mandate. “As an example, the FAA told us that the literal wording of the law prohibits any commercial activity on the residential property,” he said. “That could be interpreted as the homeowner not being allowed to have a home-based business like Avon. The FAA’s interpretation will clarify that no commercial aeronautical activity can be based at the residential property.”

AOPA said the through-the-fence issue has been a hot-button topic for GA since 2009, when the FAA announced it was planning to eliminate through-the-fence operations, ending access to airport runways and taxiways from homes and businesses located on private property. The Graves provision ensured that no GA airport sponsor’s airport improvement grants would be jeopardized by entering into RTTF agreements. Meanwhile, the FAA’s interpretation of the congressional mandate emphasizes that no aviation-related commercial or revenue-producing activities can be conducted from residences with through-the-fence access to airports.

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Robb James
on September 17, 2012 - 10:35am

We all appreciate the AOPA taking an interest in this issue. An army of folks worked with congress to help create law that told the FAA to please quit messing with some of aviations strongest advocates.

Many express appreciation for the FAA's efforts on rTTF but I would stop short of doing that because the FAA would not have worked with favorably with the rTTF users had congress not told them to treat these users fairly. In fact the FAA's leaders wanted to use tax payer dollars to buy access easements to cut these users off which makes ZERO sense on about a thousand fronts. These users prop-up our airports and have a vested interest in making them successful.

In my view, the FAA leadership is now abusing their powers to throw massive policy at airports around rTTF which appears an attempt to usurping the law of congress.

The FAA has taken 38 pages to set a policy for section 136 of P.L. 112-95 which is 57 lines (or about two pages). This proposed policy uses obfuscation by Mr. Fiertz and Ms. Lang to counter the spirit and intent of this law.

“Airport sponsors of general aviation airports proposing to establish new or add new residential through-the-fence agreements must provide evidence of compliance prior to executing an agreement with a residential user and/or association representing residential users.”

This is a violation of the spirit and intent of the law. There is nothing in 136 of P.L. 112-95 which requires “evidence of compliance prior to executing an agreement.” This is burdensome and reflects the FAA personnel (Lang and Fiertz) bias against rTTF agreements.

“Going forward, the FAA expects sponsors of general aviation airports proposing to establish new or add new residential through-the-fence agreements to comply with the terms and conditions of the law.”

This is ambiguous and confusing. Complying with 136 of P.L. 112-95 is straightforward and clear.

“However going forward, the FAA will apply the statutory prohibition on privately owned reliever airports and disallow these airports from entering into such agreements.”

This also violates the spirit and intent of the law. At the time of the writing of 136 of P.L. 112-95, the FAA had not identified any privately-owned reliever airport with rTTF agreements and was the only reason their inclusion in the law was not specifically made.

“'Extend an access' is defined as an airport sponsor’s consent to renew or extend an existing right to access the airport from residential property or property zoned for residential use, for a specific duration of time, not to exceed 20 years.”

This is also a violation of the spirit and intent of the law. There is nothing in the legislation which limits the duration of an airport sponsor’s contractual commitment to rTTF access holders. In fact, it does the opposite by stating in 136 of P.L. 112-95 specifically “Applicability—The amendment made by subsection (a) shall apply to an agreement between an airport sponsor and a property owner (or an association representing such property owner) entered into before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.”

Mr. Fiertz and Ms. Lang are intent on restricting residential through the fence access in spite of a Congressional act to prevent the FAA from doing so. This policy needs to be changed to reflect the spirit and intent of the law.

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