Guest Blog: EAA on Hangar Policy

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Thanks to AVWeb for supplying the opportunity for EAA's guest blog posting about the new FAA hangar-use policy. Anytime we can work together to bring more knowledge and information to aviators, the better it is for all of us.

AVweb's "Hangar Policy Lunacy" editorial last Friday makes the point exactly right: None of us are interested in making airport hangars a cut-rate EZ-Stor facility, with boats, motorhomes, snowmobiles, and all sorts of other toys taking up space intended for aircraft and legitimate aviation uses. Those kinds of non-aeronautical uses eventually work against airports and hurt their long-term preservation for their intended aviation use. There needs to be a clear policy to give guidance to airport managers and users to what is allowed and what isn't at airports that receive FAA federal grant funding.

(One note: If you're at a privately owned airport, residential airpark, or the like, congratulations! None of this applies to you, unless your airport owner decides to follow the same policy as the FAA. That's an issue for your own facility.)

Many people thought that FAA already had a comprehensive airport hangar-use policy at facilities that receive FAA airport funding. Nope. FAA's guidance and policy was a puzzle-piece interpretation system of letters, court cases, and other singular items from individual cases through the years. Local airport managers took those items and formulated their own local policies based on those findings. The agency finally began developing a hangar-use policy several years ago, but did not release a draft until July 22.

We had little idea what would be in that final draft until we opened the box that day, although we did spend quite a bit of time encouraging the FAA to include particular elements. In retrospect, we would have loved to have a week or two to fully analyze the policy draft after its release, and compile full briefing sheets and talking points, but there was that little flying thing in Oshkosh that was about to start. (To be honest, most of our advocacy attention for Oshkosh was focused on the aeromedical certification reform effort, but that's another story.)

In an initial reading of the policy, however, there were some things that immediately stood out:

1) Homebuilding was named as a "protected aeronautical activity." That had never occurred before. As recently as 2012, the FAA said homebuilding was not a protected activity at a local airport. We know there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of homebuilt projects created in local airport hangars over the years. All of them have taken place without protection and mostly with tacit OKs or "don't ask/don't tell" positions from local airport managers.

2) The policy draft allows non-aeronautical items in hangars that do not distract from the primary aeronautical use. That means your hangar refrigerator would be OK, as well as those second-hand lawn chairs that you bring out to watch everybody else's landings. That was not the case previously.

For those reasons, we felt the initial policy draft was a win. When individual aviators and hangar tenants have freedoms and protections where none existed before, it's a step forward. We still feel that way.

Here's where AVWeb's editorial also makes a great point: Homebuilding in all its forms should be protected at the local airport. It seems that would be a slam-dunk, no-brainer inclusion. But as we told AVWeb's editors last week, government agencies often do not work that way. Every policy or rule goes through multiple channels. Each review stop provides additional viewpoints, suggestions, and possible objections. Thus, something that seems to an outside observer to be simple becomes much more complex. Getting even the most fundamental item through unscathed can be considered a victory (Again, see aeromedical certification reform as a prime example.)

So, here's where we are: This draft has made some very significant steps in the right direction. Now, through the public comment period, there's the opportunity for all of us to do more. EAA is focusing on changing the language of allowing "final assembly" of amateur-built aircraft to simply "active assembly" or "construction" of an aircraft. That in itself would clarify many of the objections we've heard.

Homebuilders must also share responsibility in making this work. For instance, at what point does a homebuilt project become inactive, especially if there are aircraft owners on a waiting list for hangar space at an airport? If I fly an aircraft and am using outdoor tiedowns while a hangar is filled with a half-done project sitting idle for five or 10 years, do I have a right to complain?

Another good point from the AVWeb editorial: Certain activities still need very close monitoring or compliance with local codes and ordinances. Having the freedom to construct an airplane does not give me the right to burn down or contaminate my neighbor's hangar.

FAA's airport grant assurances are a two-edged sword: These federal grants to local airports are among the major protections that often are the only thing that keeps local governments from unilaterally closing a local airport on a political whim. However, as with any grant supplier, public or private, the money can come with rules attached. We can't have one without the other.

Here's what you can do to help the effort, right now: We have until September 5 to comment to the policy. EAA's view is that the policy should not be thrown out and entirely rewritten, because that would take us back to the era of loose and varying interpretations based on individual cases. Instead, focus on the elements that need further protection and clarification for EAA, that's going to be protection for all elements of homebuilding.

We're just a couple of weeks removed from aviation's annual family reunion at Oshkosh, we see the art of the possible when people are allowed the freedom to build and innovate. That's something that should be part of the culture at local airports nationwide, and something that EAA fully supports as an organization.

Join the conversation.
Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (25)

No, imagine how many airports will be dead once the hangars are filled with abandoned projects.

Posted by: phil grainger | August 11, 2014 3:04 AM    Report this comment

Sorry ... I ain't buying it this explanation. I know how the FAA works ... I listened to the Administrator's useless chest beating diatribe on Thursday in Forum 7 at Oshkosh and -- frankly -- I don't trust them to manage anything without screwing it up. Trying to explain an unneeded new "policy" is NOT what we need. We need the Government to step out of our lives and we need the EAA to help us. The words in that NPRM are painting us all into corners we don't want to be in. E.G., a small refrigerator is OK but a large one isn't ... give me a darn break!

We can agree on one thing. Hangars shouldn't be used purely for non-aviation storage. BUT ... as long as an airplane is in the hangar, other space use is no one else's business but my own and the sponsor -- NOT Uncle Sam. You can't share a T-hangar with two airplanes so why are they trying to micromanage what I do with the overflow space and why is EAA -- apparently -- buying into this jibberish?

This is still another Governmental intrusion into my private life. I have an OWNED hangar -- one I paid big bucks to build, pay to upkeep and run, pay ground lease on and pay taxes on. I HAVE two airplanes in my hangar but I also have a travel trailer -- used mostly as an office -- a car, a truck, some airport scooters and all manner of private things. I don't need no more stinkin' help from the Government, Sean. I want them to mind their own business ... until I pull one of my airplanes outside to aviate. THEN they can start dictating. Until then ... stay out of my life. I guess a man's home is his castle but his airplane hangar isn't?

I have two college degrees and I can read. Almost to a person the more than 300 commenters to date are also worried by the language in that useless NPRM. When you rent a T-hangar, you have excess space around your airplane -- or project -- and what you do with it is your business as long as it's legal and not impacting others. In MY case, with an OWNED hangar, the situation gets even more convoluted and needlessly instrusive.

This is still another bureaucracy within the FAA seeking to convince THEIR bosses that they're doing something to earn their GS-14 pay. These guys are running organizations under the Guise of "The Administrator" and no one is riding herd on them. Well, it's time.

I DID comment, I urged all of my pilot buddies to comment and I expect the EAA to get behind us, Sean. If they don't, they risk becoming every bit as irrelevant as AOPA. End of story.

If you get the idea that I'm livid ... you'd be correct! Stay out of my hangar, Uncle Sam!!

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 11, 2014 3:19 AM    Report this comment

Larry, just to be accurate, this isn't an NPRM. It's an internal FAA administrative policy that the FAA is seeking comments on.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | August 11, 2014 4:33 AM    Report this comment

Larry Stencel is correct in complaining about this very extensive governmental intrusion and EAA's failed advocacy. Any and all hangar owners or users are affected as well as EAA homebuilders. What the EAA is trying to do is pacify the membership but the matter is well established and complicated. The FAA has command and control over airports with grant assurance obligations. Period. Owner, renter, homebuilder or not, expect the same limitations not change.

@Sean Elliot. I read your statement and explanation for not having attended to this matter earlier. I certainly hope that EAA can renew to walk and chew gum at the same time after Oshkosh.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 11, 2014 6:21 AM    Report this comment

I have sent in my courteous comment asking that all active construction of an amateur built aircraft in an airport hangar be considered an acceptable aeronautical use of the hangar. I encourage all other interested people to do likewise. I own, or have owned 3 such aircraft, although I did not build them, they were all built/restored at least partially in hangars. If the builders had not been able to use airport hangars they probably would not have been built. Jim. Pilot 50+ years.

Posted by: James Hodges | August 11, 2014 8:43 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for the clarification, Paul, but -- a rose by any other name ...

If the FAA can enforce rules that don't exist on poor 'ol Raphael Pirker and -- when the Administrative law judge vacates the fine and dismisses the case WITH prejudice yet the FAA appeals the decision -- just imagine what some overzealous FAA Airports type might do with this extremely poorly written "Policy." Further, the FAA doesn't have to enforce anything ... airports won't want to lose the ability to receive AIP funds so now airport managers and managing entities will be enforcing the Policy acting as the hangar "police" for the FAA.

The Through the Fence "policy" would be another fine example of "Policy" negatively impacting some airports. People who own land adjacent to an airport fence can't access the airport and -- if they do -- they have to pay "fair market value!" In my case with an owned hangar, this poorly written Policy says I have to pay FMV, as well. Well, guess what, I signed a 30 year lease which had a price along with potential CPI raises. It doesn't say "FMV." See ya in Court, FAA.

See the problem with painting hangar usage into too tight of a corner and use of ANY word that a legal eagle can somehow dissect?

I don't get why the EAA WAS originally supporting this unneeded and nefarious Policy. I'm glad they're changing their tune but I think they need to reject it in it's entirety as an intrusion into an area that has nothing whatsoever to do with "safety" and is overstepping the FAA's Mission statement.

There are issues left out and there are issues too intrusive. I see, today, that the Count on the Regulations.gov website is approaching 500 with most of 'em at least worried, if not negative.

I would respectfully suggest to the FAA Administrator that he reassign his Airports Division Manager to help re-write FAR Part 23 -- to include the Primary non-commercial airworthiness category -- and to help figure out how to assimilate UAS into the NAS as opposed to micromanaging how large a refrigerator I have in my hangar.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, GA is dying ... one hangar and one certificated airplane at a time !!

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 11, 2014 2:30 PM    Report this comment

The simple fact is the FAA gets to set standards for airports which request/accept federal money (no airport is FORCED to take that money, but they pay for things pilots like - lighting, AWOS installations, paved taxiways...). Airports accepting grants must meet those obligations. The standards were historically unclear, resulting in people being evicted from their hangars for having a mini-fridge or such by the airport authorities who were trying to meet the conditions of their grant obligation.

Rather than shrieking about this perceived "governmental intrusion" how about we submit CONSTRUCTIVE comments to the FAA and work to get a beneficial policy put in place with clear guidance that recognizes things like active homebuilding projects as aeronautical uses, and protects your ability to have a soda fridge and an espresso machine as long as they're not preventing "aeronautical use" of the hangar?

A favorable policy from the FAA is a Good Thing: It prevents your airport sponsor from unilaterally deciding that a mini-fridge is a non-aeronautical use of your hangar and evicting you (regardless of how many aircraft you've got in there, and regardless of whether you rent or own the building -- if the airport authority voids your ground lease for "non-aeronautical uses" you can fold up your hangar and go home...).

Posted by: Michael Graziano | August 11, 2014 2:33 PM    Report this comment

This problem has been brewing for some time. At my local airport there are car collectors that literally have dozens of cars stored in a hangar. To make it legal, they will buy a cheap, small homebuilt to park in the corner. Some don't even have the pretense of a small airplane. The real problem is that hangar costs are apparently much lower and easier to get than commercial storage space and now they get free perimeter security to boot.

To my mind, non-aeronautical use of airplane hangars should be legal when I can land my airplane on public roads. Homebuilding in a hangar is borderline; that's why they're called homebuilts and not hangarbuilts. I don't think the recent FAA proposal is all that far off the mark. I would agree that we need to approach this with care and thought and not just reject it to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | August 11, 2014 4:02 PM    Report this comment

This proposed policy would have the (intended?) effect of creating a class system. It looks like an effort to replace the typical first-come-first-served practice of hangar rentals with a usefulness-to-the-airport paradigm under which things that do fly - or theoretically could fly - are considered to be of greater value to an airport, than are things that don't fly (yet or regularly). This compels me to ask: are planes that fly weekly of greater value than planes that fly monthly? Some of the comments here lead me to conclude that some pilots think that's true. So I ask: should the privilege of having a hangar be awarded to planes that demonstrate the highest value - by being flown the most hours per year? That certainly would support the paradigm.

Further, when it comes to things that don't fly, it's hard to assert much difference between an uncompleted homebuilt "project" vehicle, and an out-of-license certificated one. Is Tucson's "boneyard" storage of mostly un-airworthy aircraft a legitimate "aeronautical use?" Is the FAA ready to compel the eviction of out-of-annual aircraft from hangars and tie-downs? These days, that would be a lot of aircraft. Where would they go?

Value hierarchies always are tricky things to administer. Boeing builds planes in hangars. Cirrus builds planes in hangars. Homebuilders sometimes build planes in hangars. IMWO, aircraft construction and maintenance are legitimate aeronautical uses. The FAA should recognize that, and stop devoting attorneys' time to determining which refrigerators are "small." They're out of control. Same as it ever was.

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | August 11, 2014 4:39 PM    Report this comment

I'm a fan of homebuilt aircraft. I also fly from an airport that has a multi-year waiting list for hangar space.

So here's what I want to know: how long does it take the average builder to complete a home-built airplane? I often read about somebody who is so proud and happy to have completed their project after diligently working away at it for years. It doesn't seem fair to me that a project like that should be occupying hangar space when flyable aircraft are waiting for space.

By the way, I'm in complete agreement with Larry Stencel -- I can't see why it's anybody's business what goes into a single-aircraft hangar besides the aircraft itself, provided that those items don't interfere with the primary purpose (storage of the aircraft), and don't present a hazard. The devil is in the details on these things, and there's too much vague wording in the FAA's proposal. They say one thing in the "general principles" section, but say something more restrictive in the actual proposed rule.

Posted by: Michael Kobb | August 11, 2014 7:48 PM    Report this comment

I'm with the FAA on this one. They're right on. Anyone who's had to wait years on a waiting list to get a hanger doesn't want to know they are waiting behind hangers being used for homebuilt projects that are going on for many years, housing an unfinished project that may in fact never be completed. I spent 22 years building my Glasair 3 at a home shop, which is longer than most build times, but isn't unheard of. That would be a very long time to hold up a hanger which had no flying airplane inside, to the chagrin of others waiting on a waiting list. Those who are against the FAA's rule are selfish, self-centered individuals who care not for those with flying airplanes wishing to put them in a hanger. And not only that, a hanger is a lousy place to build, some have no electricity, no heat or air conditioning. So unless they are located in a place like the coast of CA or other such places with good weather, they aren't ideal for building anyway. If the FAA has given pubic funds to an airport they do have a say about the availability of it's space to the public with flying airplanes. A much better option is to build at home if there is room, or rent space in an industrial park where there is usually electricity, heat and a/c available. Especially if more than one builder shares the rent.

Posted by: Ted Striker | August 12, 2014 7:54 AM    Report this comment

"Are planes that fly weekly of greater value than planes that fly monthly?"

Yarsley's brilliant posting has uncovered the central core of the rotten apple. No longer is it a free economy of services received for cash paid, but now we have a sliding scale of who is a worthy buyer. No one wants to see hangars full of storage furniture, but think about what this means to the greater availability of aviation resources; in the future, even pilot licenses may be issued only to those deemed "worthy" of using it to some arbitrary goal. The camel's nose is definitely under the tent, and somebody needs to get a lasso around it quick!

Posted by: A Richie | August 12, 2014 9:09 AM    Report this comment

Rule no. 51. If you cain't spell hangar you cain't use one.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 12, 2014 9:23 AM    Report this comment

"Value hierarchies..." Love it Tom Yardsley, very colorful and poetic.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 12, 2014 10:23 AM    Report this comment

If they can't leave it to the locals and common sense then the policy should be simply "Hangars should be used primarily for aviation purposes." Seems to me this would cover it pretty well. I know of one situation in Hawaii where the local airport authority issued a misdemeanor to a renter for violating the aviation use limitation to someone who had a map on the wall of the hangar.

Posted by: Joel Ludwigson | August 12, 2014 11:00 AM    Report this comment

Rule 52. Even if grammar is lacking, regard all peoples their content and understanding. (Yardsley) ;-)

Well outlined and explained, at least to me, Sean. Keep up the good fight for us.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 12, 2014 11:35 AM    Report this comment

Resource allocation is why we have pricing, folks. Raise the hangar rents until there is no waiting list, and/or there is sufficient income to justify building more hangars. That's it. Why does anyone care what some other fellow puts in his hangar, if he's paying market rate?

Hangar rent should be high enough to help subsidize the entire facility. The guy with flightless vehicles is then paying for a shared resource he's not using. Win for the community.

Oh but then the hangar is too expensive for some? Sorry, but that's life. If the government owes you a cheap hangar maybe it owes me a cheap L39? Pretty please?

Posted by: Dave Page | August 12, 2014 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Ted Striker, surely you can't be serious :-)

Posted by: A Richie | August 12, 2014 1:10 PM    Report this comment

I just read the U.S. DOT / FAA response on this issue from the LA Airports Division dated 12 Jul 2012. Anyone who thinks what's going to come out of this ISN'T draconian in nature better read that ASAP !! Fear not, however, you can keep a towbar and a pointer to point at your chart in there, though.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 12, 2014 3:29 PM    Report this comment

A. Richie:

Airplane! -- The persons and events in this film are fictitious - fortunately! .... Still craving for the love of his life, Ted Striker follows Elaine onto the flight that she is ...

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 12, 2014 4:06 PM    Report this comment

Now, misspelling surely also. Let's watch our grammar, people!

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 12, 2014 4:18 PM    Report this comment

You guys need to quit giving 'ol Striker a hard time. Just because he can't spell hangar, took 22 years to build a GlassAir and is the only person on the planet who agrees with an absolutely idiotic FAA Policy doesn't give you all the right to give him a hard time! He was traumatized in the war, remember? His autopilot, Otto, ran out of hot air so he's doubly nervous these day, trying to figure out if east is least or west is best by himself. At least he was able to save a plane load of folks with food poisoning. Cut him some slack. Once he patches 'ol Otto up, he and Elaine are gonna need a hangar for that GlassAir, sharing the rent, of course. Don't make him any more nervous than he already is while he patiently waits in line for his turn to hog a hangar ... or is it hanger?

Signed A selfish, self-centered hangar owning individual

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 12, 2014 10:39 PM    Report this comment

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue...;-)

Posted by: A Richie | August 13, 2014 8:52 AM    Report this comment

How ironic that the movie "Airplane" is playing on SatTV during this diatribe, A. Richie. Folks who haven't seen it probably think we've gone nuts ... :-)

I hear 'ol Striker and Elaine are gonna build an LSA in their bathroom after the honeymoon is over, though. I don't think the FAA is dictating what goes on in there ... YET! That said, they have re-financed their home with a HARP loan on land leased from an Indian tribe so I think they better check the Advisory Circulars to make sure they aren't breaking any FAR's, however. The Govment does get to dictate what you do INSIDE your home once you get one of those loans ... don't ya know. The LSA is a simpler design so it should only take about 15 years for the second airplane. Maybe the Feds won't find out he's doing that before he finishes?

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 14, 2014 10:37 AM    Report this comment

A. Richie ... turns out you were right ... "Ted Striker, surely you can't be serious." The person who is calling himself Ted Striker is a ruse ... his real name is Richard May, an airline pilot in SC.

This AM, I was looking at the most recent comments on the hangar use policy subject at Regulations.gov and discovered the EXACT SAME negative (to most of us) comment "Ted Striker" made -- above -- only it's listed as by Richard May in Fort Mill, SC. (See FAA-2014-0463-0531 at Regulations.gov) Some Google searches and guess what pops out ... "Striker" -- aka Richard May -- is a 60 year old US Air pilot living in SC. More searches indicates he had reserved an "N" number in 2009 but has no Glassair airplane registered with the FAA ... after 22 years (sic). So we don't even know if he really has a Glassair under construction or is just trying to be negative by supporting the FAA Policy at the expense of the rest of us who own or lease hangars. If he really had a Glassair, I'd think it'd be registered? MY guess is that someone made him mad over the issue of hangars and he's going to take it out on the rest of we "selfish and self-centered individuals" by supporting the insane FAA Policy. This coming from a professional pilot ... give us all a break, Dick. I'd expect better from an ERAU graduate.

Richard May has probably been laughing at our diatribe but ... he got caught! Be careful what you wish for, Dick ... you might just get it! When you finally finish N115X, you might not be able to get a hangar because GA died in the interim, thanks to your "help."

The internet ... it's a wonderful thing!

EIC ... are ya' paying attention. I think you ought to cancel "Ted Striker's" Avweb blog account.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 16, 2014 10:42 AM    Report this comment

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