AOPA Calls For Standardization Of GA Parking Labels


The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is calling for a standardized set of airport diagram labels for general aviation aircraft parking. According to the organization, it found 30 different terms for the same ramp types when reviewing airport diagrams for airports in Southern California alone. AOPA says that standardizing parking area terms would help pilots identify parking options and assist with preflight planning along with promoting transparency.

“There is very strong support in the pilot community for transparency at our nation’s airports, whether it be FBO fees or airport ramps,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The use of these standard parking terms, if applicable to an airport, will be very helpful to pilots by indicating parking options to fit their particular needs.”

AOPA is recommending the use of three parking-area terms and definitions:

  • FBO Ramp: An apron where itinerant general aviation operators can park their aircraft and expect to have access to traditional FBO services subject to terms and conditions.
  • GA Transient Ramp: An apron where itinerant general aviation operators can park their aircraft without FBO services and subject to terms and conditions.
  • GA Tenant Ramp: An area designated for parking of based general aviation aircraft, i.e., tiedown area.

The organization’s proposal is currently supported by a group of 300 pilot and aviation groups from across the country.

Avatar photo
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. Is this really the best they can do to remain relevant? Has anyone here really had problems at most of the GA fields (I can see where it might make sense at, say, KJFK or KORD) finding a place to park or is this using the Hegelian Dialectic to 1) create a problem, 2) propose a solution, and 3) claim credit for solving the problem to maintain relevancy.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that these non-profit associations (like AOPA, ARRL, etc.) exist to perpetuate their own existence long after their original purpose ran out of runway and they had to find reasons to keep collecting dues.

    • Pardon me, but for the sake of truth, I have to fix this:

      According to the organization, it found 30 different terms for the same ramp types when reviewing airport diagrams for THE FEW REMAINING airports in Southern California alone.

    • In just my local area looking at the 8 or so main GA airports, there are 5 different ways of the airport diagrams labeling areas for GA (if they label them at all). And that’s not counting the Class-E/G airports that don’t even have an airport diagram. It absolutely is a problem that’s bothered me since day one, and it’s particularly annoying when planning a long cross-country across multiple states.

      When you go on a highway road trip, you can expect to find several rest stops along the way, all with generally standard layouts, and easily identifiable on maps. Why should it be so difficult that you have to find where each airport hides their information on transient parking, let alone the local procedures to follow? Sometimes it’s on the airport diagram (if they have one), sometimes it’s in the AFD, sometimes it’s on their website (if they have one), and sometimes their website is a municipal website with hardly any information.

      It’s not OK to just accept the status quo, particularly since many of the antiquated ways of doing things are not helping at getting new people into the hobby. People don’t mind spending the effort to learn a new skill if they feel they can get some value out of it without having to do a song and a dance, as if often the case when planning a long cross-country flight as far as airport facilities goes.

    • I disagree with Bryan, this is important work. Unfortunately messaging by AOPA is not perfect, and makes it sound like signage is the point of all this.

      The issue that needs to be addressed are high FBO fees and lack of interest by FBOs in serving piston single customers at an appropriate level of service. On the East coast where I fly, FBOs at many important GA airports have high fees, outrageous fuel prices and poor service.

      I do believe in a 2 tier service with the jet crowd using palatial FBOs while giving the piston single pilot an option to self park at a tie down, use a bathroom, pump their own gas and exit and enter the airport through a secure gate without paying fees an to FBOs. Those who wish to be “handled” by an FBO will certainly have the option to request that service.

      Most of the FBO ramps that we park on were built with taxpayer dollars and then given to FBOs to exploit for fees. In addition, many FBOs are able to operate self service fuel pumps at a profit. They save on labor costs while allowing those who pump their own gas to save money.

      Towns that own airports should know that they have an option of attracting more visitors by creating a free “GA Transient Parking” ramp, preferably with a self service fuel pump.

  2. “AOPA…. found 30 different terms for the same ramp types”.

    I’ll call BS on that. Seriously, 30 terms for FBO parking? That is not believable. That’s one reason why I left that organization a few years ago. They no longer did things that really helped me as a private pilot and aircraft owner.

    • Having planned many multi-state cross-country flights, I can believe that. Just look at the 20 or so closest airports to wherever you are to see for yourself, and ask if it would be easy for an out-of-towner to know where they should go.

      • Hint: use the airport directory or airport diagram or call the FBO in your pre-flight. In 45 years of flying around this country I have never found anything that would qualify as a “surprise” yet.

  3. I believe it is part of AOPA’s effort to secure parking (daily or overnight) at public airports–something they have been trying to do for years.

    All too often, if landing at a public airport and remaining for only a short time, a pilot is forced to use one of the chain FBO’s–incurring “ramp fees” and “facility charges” when all they needed was a place to pick up or discharge a passenger–no other services needed.

    We have public spaces in towns–we have public highways funded by taxpayer dollars without fees–why are we held captive by FBOs at “public airports?” (Food for thought–can you even CALL it a “public airport”–built with taxpayer dollars–when there are no options other than a licensed FBO?) Based aircraft aren’t charged, but transient aircraft are subject to huge fees for even a stay of only a few minutes–and the money doesn’t go to the airport–it goes to the FBO chain!

    That’s not right–and it is something AOPA is trying to correct–“just give us a place to park for a few hours or minutes while we pick up or deliver passengers–with no services needed or requested. Need I point out that Signature is the leading FBO in the world? (recently sold for $4.2 BILLION?)–and that nearly every one of their operations is on an “access-controlled” airport? Yesterday, I was forced to pay a $140 “ramp fee” and a $32 “facility charge” at a Signature operation for a few hours of waiting for passengers–the $140 charge COULD have been waived if I bought 110 gallons of overpriced Jet-A–but the cost would be the same. I didn’t need the fuel, so I paid the $172 in “fees”–for landing at an airport paid for by tax and fuel-tax dollars.

    Save your ire for these “ramp robbers”–AOPA is only trying to maintain PUBLIC ACCESS to airports we paid for.

  4. “But I wouldn’t be using the big airport if the three other choices within 20 miles were not now all turned into houses or golf courses. Where was AOPA for that?”

    Are you talking about a specific airport? Here in Minnesota, Signature not only has the large municipal airport, but St. Paul Downtown (a GA airport) locked down–no place to go there either.

    AOPA can’t protect EVERY airport–but they are perhaps the most effective at mounting a defense. You can’t blame AOPA for the loss of every airport–they can’t do it for themselves.

    AOPA doesn’t complain if there are options available for short-term operations at large airport–but why grant the big chain FBOs an exclusive at larger airports? Pilots whine about “looking out for the little guy”–and AOPA has been true to that.

    What’s NEXT? “Interstates are for trucks and commercial vehicles only?”

    • Besides AOPA, what other big guns does GA have? Of course, they are not perfect, but they also have limited resources. In the case of the airport closest to me, AOPA would have made little difference. It was owned by an aviation enthusiast (a legend really, from pre-WWII). When he died, his heirs had no interest in continuing because the land was worth ~$10 million. The airport land was divided up and sold off. It’s an oft-repeated story.

      What could AOPA or any other organization do?

      • Some things AOPA could have done. First, prevented the government policies that helped gut GA such as Tort and over regulation of aircraft certification and operation. Then, they could have saved the public airports. Every airport lost is just one more place you cannot go from another airport.

        The reason these vtol companies think they can make money is they think their planes will be able to go to desirable destinations. They ALL are planning on landing all over town.

        Finally, they could have tried to prevent the domination of Cessna in flight training, or pushed Cessna not to let the CPC’s turn into dumps.

        Marginal changes year over year make big differences over decades. AOPA watched everything trend down and when there was a chance in the late nineties they let it all happen again. GA was dead BEFORE 2008, it just had not fallen over yet.

  5. I don’t think they have been true to that at all, really. I’m going to forego the whole rant though.

    I think that we can judge the largest, and most well known alphabet on results.

    My comment was generic. I think it’s terrible your two airports are both locked down. I suspect that has to do with the jet guys not wanting the piston guys around. Much of that is just them being rude, but they can always find ammunition provided by some of our peers. We all know the ones.

    At any rate, find an old guy, and ask about the airports in your area that were closed for developments (assuming you are in a city that had many to start with, but most larger ones did). Then the ones closed due to lack of business. Or, get some old maps. Piston aviation has suffered for many reasons, some of which we cannot blame AOPA on, but many of them are results of policy that AOPA failed to fight or took the wrong side on.

    And yes, if AAA was AOPA, we would all be on the bus.

  6. This is the way, the airport I first flew at was set up.
    I knew where the ‘public’ parking was, where the high dollar FBOs were located (for when I had some Gray Poupon mustard on my sandwich) and the rental parking.

  7. I used to go to Republic (KFRG) often a few years ago and I got burned there in regard to parking. Normally there is day parking for free in front of the main terminal. On this day I was directed to transient parking on another ramp nearby by unicom/operations. Ground gave me the taxi instructions and as I pulled into the ramp area someone called me on the unicom. I told him I was looking for transient parking and he said to follow him. A lineman flagged me down and started directing me to a spot. I said to my wife that it is odd that airport personnel is helping but at the same time I was pleasantly surprised. My family and I got out and were directed to a small building to exit the ramp area. Turns out it was a new satellite location for one of the FBO’s. Sure enough, I proceeded to find out I was being charged for ramp, security and parking fees! Turns out that the transient parking and the FBO share the same ramp. No signs to indicate where the transient parking was exactly and only an FBO lineman waiting for an unsuspecting victim. Even if AOPA is exaggerating on the number of names, I am glad they are trying to help us.

    • Yes, this exactly. One can attempt to avoid this problem by calling the listed airport manager in advance and inquire. Sadly, many of them don’t know the rules at their own airports or, if they do, one finds “entrepreneurs” on site who implement self-serving made-up rules on site.