...Whither The FAA...?

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In addition to the immediate effect -- banning the BBJ from one of business aviation's most popular airports -- the new federal law will act to supersede a policy statement the FAA proposed on July 1, 2003, before it even goes into effect. The proposed policy sought to allow operations of aircraft heavier than an airport's local pavement-based restrictions in limited circumstances. In that proposed policy, the FAA basically noted that restrictions based on the ability of runway, taxiway and ramp pavement to support heavy aircraft without damage are based on regular use of the airport's facilities. Instead, said the proposed policy, incidental use of the airport by aircraft exceeding pavement-based weight restrictions would be allowed. That proposed policy statement also noted that, "[i]f there is no showing of need to protect pavement life, or the limit on airport use appears motivated by interest in mitigating noise without going through processes that exist for such restrictions, an attempt to limit aircraft by weight will be considered unreasonable." In other words, when a weight-based restriction is motivated by other than concerns for the life of the airport's pavement, the FAA would consider them inappropriate.

To date, the FAA has not progressed beyond the proposal stage with its policy on weight-based restrictions. Since the proposal was published, the FAA has been sifting through the numerous public comments it received but has made no decisions. Similarly, there is no schedule or deadline by which the agency will publish a final policy statement, if at all. Finally, it's not at all clear what response, if any, the FAA will have to the situation at TEB, one which is clearly a weight-based restriction for reasons other than protecting pavement. Also unclear is the extent to which, if any, other options for BBJ operations at TEB may exist. For example, the FAA recently approved a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) allowing BBJ operators to execute some paperwork and redesignate their aircraft's operating weights. Although that STC was designed to allow the BBJ to be operated within FAR Part 135's weight limitations, it's not at all clear whether similar paperwork might be used to once again allow BBJs to access TEB.