For those who love aviation, it’s not a stretch to imagine that your idea of a dream house might well be, or at least include, a dream hangar. Though personal finances are not likely to cooperate in my case, I have often looked enviously at some of the beautiful private airparks I’ve spotted around the country. Since I live an hour’s drive from my home airport – longer in tougher traffic – the idea of living just steps away from my airplane and yards away from the runway is appealing indeed.
That very understandable appeal has led over time not just to the establishment of totally private air parks (i.e., where tenants also own the airport), but also to so-called “through-the-fence” arrangements between private entities, such as private residential airparks located adjacent to public use airports. Through-the-fence (TTF) is typically defined:
An agreement that permits access to the public landing area by independent entities or operations offering an aeronautical activity or to owners of aircraft based on land adjacent to, but not part of, the airport property.
In the case of residential through-the-fence, or RTTF, this arrangement generally involves a residential environment in which a private party constructs a residence that includes an aircraft hangar, and the RTTF arrangement provides the owner with “through-the-fence” access to the airport infrastructure.
So What’s the Beef?
There is considerable controversy over RTTF. From the FAA’s perspective, the agency’s longstanding policy is to discourage RTTF access to federally-obligated airports. That is because the FAA believes that RTTF arrangements could compromise an airport sponsor’s ability to retain the characteristics expected of a public-use airport. Among other concerns is the possibility that RTTF arrangements may undermine an airport’s utility and limit future airport development.
That said, the FAA recognizes the diversity existing within the GA airport community, including various RTTF arrangements. In March 2011, the agency published its interim policy on residential through-the-fence access to federally obligated airports. The interim policy creates a moratorium on new RTTF arrangements, and it requires airport sponsors with existing RTTF arrangements to develop access plans. The access plan must explain how the airport meets its obligations to operate as a public-use airport, and it must detail how the airport sponsor meets standards for control of the airport, safety of operations, self sustainability, protection of airport airspace, and land-use compatibility. Beginning on October 1, 2012, access plans will be due before the beginning of the fiscal year in which the sponsor will request an AIP grant.
The interim policy also states that the FAA will initiate a policy review in 2014 based on the information learned from reviewing access plans as well as from an FAA GA airport study that is currently underway. In the meantime, the interim policy addresses the FAA’s concerns, preserves the access of homeowners with existing RTTF arrangements, safeguards the GA community’s ability to protect airports from encroachment or undue restrictions on airport access, and establishes the next step in an ongoing learning process for the FAA and all parties with an interest in RTTF arrangements. (FAA Safety Briefing – NovDec 2011)