I’ve been tracking residential airparks for 30 to 35 years now. Over those years I have seen the number of airparks we’ve become aware of increase dramatically. All those airparks have always been there but it took publicizing this type life style to get the flying public really aware of them.
Each year I am surprised by the number of people I speak with at flyins who comment on the idea of living on an airport in a residential community. Frequently a male says he thinks the idea is great “but I can’t get my wife to even think about it.” And yet, the thousands of families living on the more than 600 airparks we have in our directory seem to be happy with their decision.
Until recently the biggest threat to the serenity and enjoyment a lot of people on airparks enjoy has been disagreements about who is going to mow the grass around the runway or whether the monthly assessment should be $50 or $75.
And, those type issues continue at the private airparks but now a new threat has arisen its ugly head for those living in residential communities at public-owned airports. And, the big threat isn’t coming from neighbors objecting to noise. It isn’t outrageous claims spouted by local politicians who know little, if anything, about aviation. The problem isn’t even coming from those claiming airports don’t pay their own way.
Nope, the big threat is coming from the FAA – the agency created by Congress to regulate and promote all aspects of aviation – airlines and general aviation.
In recent months, agents in the Northwest Mountain Region of the FAA have been telling sponsors of public-owned airports with thru the fence agreements for residential or business developments that such agreements are invalid. The FAA officials claim the TTF agreements at airports make them in violation of their funding agreements. The NW Region of the FAA has sent notices to airports seeking new AIP funding, and some that have received funding in the past, to eliminate those agreements or find they can’t get FAA funding.
A Thru The Fence (TTF) agreement allows development on land adjoining airport property providing access to the airport via a taxiway. TTF is simply the term used to describe it; often there is no real fence. Usually a fee is paid to the airport for the right to go from the adjoining property to the airport.
Some of these agreements have been in place for 30 or 40 years with primarily positive effect on the airport. But, all of a sudden this has become a problem. And, it seems most of the problem seems to exist only in the area affected by the FAA’s NW Mountain Region.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the issue doesn’t affect most pilots and airplane owners because the most residential airparks are on private-owned, private-use airports or private-owned, public-use airports and rarely do facilities in these categories qualify for FAA funding.
But, we all know that once the FAA starts getting into an issue they rarely make things easier and frequently try to expand their reach. Will FAA agents try to pressure local zoning people or city governments into adopting similar actions? The track record for the agency leads me to add 2 plus 2 and get 5, meaning it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to get residential airparks eliminated everywhere.
Fortunately, there are folks battling the FAA on this issue and I’m hoping to keep the issue in front of you and encourage you to join the fight too. It is far too easy to sit back and do nothing until it is too late … when the regulations hit home!
Stay tuned …. I’ll have more to say on this topic in the next few days and I’ll look forward to your comments.