Good News For Airport Access

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Two recent developments are good news for expanding access to general aviation airports, AOPA said this week. In Tennessee, the state legislature has approved a bill that will provide liability protection to owners of private airfields who open their facility to the public. "I think this is going to open a lot of doors," said AOPA Southeast Regional Representative Bob Minter. "The fun of flying is no better than at a small grass strip." The new legislation, once signed into law by the governor, will allow "recreational noncommercial aircraft operations" under the same kind of rules that govern public use of private lands for hunting or fishing. Also, the FAA recently said it will allow through-the-fence access at an Oregon airport, a change to the hard line the agency has taken to such requests for the last couple of years, AOPA said.

Through-the-fence agreements allow the owners of homes and businesses on private property access to airports. They have always been difficult to arrange, but in the last year or two the FAA has sought to terminate existing agreements and ban any new ones. AOPA said this week its efforts to persuade the FAA to take "a more reasonable and balanced approach" are paying off. "AOPA continues to work with the FAA to strike a balance that protects airports and those based on the airport while accommodating those individuals who want residential access at airports where it would be a benefit to the airport," said AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro. Independence State Airport in Oregon is next door to an airpark community where many homeowners have hangars and can taxi from home to the airfield. The EAA and ThroughTheFence.org have also been working with the airpark homeowners to help ensure their continuing access to the runways. Pecoraro said the decision in Oregon is just one step in a continuing process. "This issue is not a sprint, but a marathon, and will take time," he said. In a letter (PDF) to the Oregon Department of Aviation, the FAA said the decision was based on existing policy, and "we are in the process of reviewing this policy to determine if it should be changed." The Oregon case yielded "constructive information" which may impact that review, according to the letter.