The FAA says most of the work involved in building an airplane is a “non-aeronautical use” and it has singled out homebuilders in a new proposed policy statement issued July 22. Policy on the Non-Aeronautical Use Of Airport Hangars says homebuilders will have to build the components of their projects elsewhere and can only move to a hangar for final assembly. Comments are being accepted until Sept. 5 and can be submitted online citing docket number FAA-2014-0463. The agency has devoted a separate section in the proposed policy to explaining its stand. The essence is that the principal role of a hangar is to supply enclosed storage for aircraft to give ready access to the runway. The FAA’s argument is that bucking rivets on a wing doesn’t require a runway so it’s not an aeronautical use. It also says the policy has always been in force. “The FAA is not proposing any change to existing policy other than to clarify that final assembly of an aircraft, leading to the completion of the aircraft to a point where it can be taxied, will be considered an aeronautical use,” the proposed policy says. EAA is aware of the proposed policy and staff are assessing it.
The new policy statement is the result of stepped-up enforcement of the rules regarding uses of airport hangars. In dozens of audits conducted over the past two years, the agency has found hangars crammed with just about everything but airplanes. Household goods, cars, even non-aviation related businesses have been discovered. The FAA says that because federal funds are used to build and maintain airports, the use of airport facilities for non-aeronautical uses amounts to a subsidy for those uses. In some cases the city or county responsible for the airport was the violator. Auditors found police cars and other municipal assets tucked safely away in airport hangars. The proposed policy will also clarify the incidental storage of non-aeronautical items in hangars, meaning that a couch and a beer fridge will probably be safe from the feds.