EAA and AOPA have weighed in on the FAA’s new policy on through-the-fence agreements and both are asking the agency to back off. The new policy effectively outlaws the deals, in which property owners on land adjacent to an airport are granted access, usually via a gate that leads to a taxiway.
Although the FAA has always officially frowned on such arrangements, it has given local authorities latitude to approve them in cases where it helped the airport and paid its own way. That changed in September with the release of the new policy, which includes the line that “there are no acceptable residential through-the-fence agreements.” What’s especially troubling to AOPA is that the directive appears to order any FAA-funded airports to cancel existing agreements that don’t have end dates, something that could result in expensive litigation. EAA, however, says there’s a place for the agreements and they should be allowed in some circumstances. “The prior FAA policy, which allowed adjacent residential property through-the-fence agreements on a case-by-case basis based on the economic and operational needs of the public airport, and when safety, security, and equitable compensation issues were addressed, must be continued,” wrote EAA’s Government Relations Director Randy Hansen. Brent Blue, who has founded an organization, told AVweb the FAA has failed to justify its move to ban through-the-fence arrangements. When he first found out about the looming policy through dealings with his local airport in Driggs, Idaho, he said he was told that noise complaints from people living in the adjacent hangar homes were behind the move.
A Freedom of Information Act request (delivered five days late by the FAA) showed no record of noise complaints from hangar home residents.
FAA’s access policy doesn’t benefit public
The Dec. 17 story on through-the-fence (TTF) access for airpark residents at Independence State Airport is accurate but leaves out significant points.
1. After getting Oregon Department of Aviation assurance of no additional TTF agreements at state-owned airports, FAA Northwest Region office manager Carol Suomi wrote ODA that airpark access at Independence meets FAA requirements. National FAA policy would now abrogate that endorsement.
2. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Wyoming physician Brent Blue requested FAA documents leading to its new tougher stance on TTF at publically funded airports. In a late response, FAA said it could find no such documents. The policy appears to be based on FAA staff misconceptions and circular arguments; there is no record of problems at these airparks.
3. A properly structured TTF agreement such as at Independence State greatly strengthens FAA’s stated goal, which is to protect public airports from encroachment and noise complaints that have closed many airports.
Independence airpark has made the airport a major success for the state (through TTF fees and fuel sales), for the community (through higher taxes and civic involvement) and for those who invested their life savings in this environment. The FAA position is policy, not law. We hope new Administrator Randy Babbitt kills this wrongheaded policy.
— David Martin, Independence Airpark Homeowners Association board member, Independence