FAA’s long-standing policy against thru the fence agreements booed at Oshkosh

A capacity crowd turned out July 30 at EAA AirVenture to meet and hear from new FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. I was all prepared to ask him about thru the fence problems but Brent Blue from Driggs, Idaho, got to ask a question before I did. The administrator said in his roughly two months on […]

A capacity crowd turned out July 30 at EAA AirVenture to meet and hear from new FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. I was all prepared to ask him about thru the fence problems but Brent Blue from Driggs, Idaho, got to ask a question before I did.

The administrator said in his roughly two months on the job he had heard a lot about the issue but he turned to one of his top management team members who handles airports to answer the question. He said the FAA has consistently opposed thru the fence arrangements because they are a “non conforming land use.”

As he completed that sentence the standing room only crowd that was there to hear the administrator let out a very large groan indicating  strong disagreement with the answer. After the noise subsided, EAA President and Convention Chair Tom Poberezny, who was moderator for the session, remarked to Babbitt that it was pretty apparent that the audience didn’t agree with that answer.

If Blue hadn’t beaten me to the question, here’s what I would have said:

First I was going to explain my background of gathering data on residential airparks for more than 35 years as a way to show the administrator that I had some creditability in this arena. Then I was going to add that in the last year I’ve become particularly concerned by actions of the Northwest Mountain Region’s efforts to eliminate residential thru the fence agreements at public airports. Some other regions are also taking some actions, but not as agggressively as the Northwest Mountain Region. This action simply doesn’t make any sense.

Residential (or commercial) thru the fence projects provide additional security because there are people on site 24/7. They know every non-based airplane or person arriving there.

The thru the fence fees paid to the airport help support the facility, in addition to the taxes they pay just like everyone else.

Residential airpark residents support their local FBO with maintenance, fuel purchases, instruction, etc.

Thru the fence agreements have been operating safely, efficiently and profitably for all sides for over 40 years. An excellent example is Independence Airport, in Oregon, a state-owned airport with about 140 residential properties operating with thru the fence agreements.

Why all of a sudden has the FAA started this action on thru the fence agreement airparks where people are strong airport supporters and aren’t likely to complain about noise or imagined crash fears.

How can that be a “non-confirming land use”?

What is the rationale for such an effort?

I’m publishing  this and sending a copy direct to Administrator Babbitt and looking for him and the agency to come to some sanity in this issue.

AOPA recently joined in this discussion, changing its earlier stance of supporting the FAA’s position to one calling for a change in attitude. That’s a very good sign and I applaud AOPA.

At this point all I can say is “keep tuned” and hopefully we’ll have some good news in the not too distant future.

5 comments

  1. Jason

    It might be a useful writing tactic if you explained what a “through the fence agreement is”

  2. Jason,

    You are correct that we shouldn’t assume everyone knows all terms, even though we’ve written about it many times.

    A Thru The fence agreement is something an airport executes with parties on adjoining property who want to use the runway and other airport properties. Usually there is a fee paid by the off airport homes or businesses for the privilege of using the field. In many cases, the “fence” is imaginary, but the arrangement is still referred to as Thru The Fence (often abbreviated as TTF).

    Dave

  3. Mack McKinney

    Fellow Airpark Residents Across the US,
    The bottom line is this: Unless we band together across the country and coordinate a coherent, unemotional, reasoned defense against the FAA’s position on TTF operations, with appropriate actions at the Federal level, most (if not all TTF) residential airparks are going to be closed one-by-one. Appealing to reason won’t work. The FAA has shown time after time that the positions it takes do not have to make sense to the public, do not have to be in concert with previous decisions it has made, and do not need to be congruent with the needs of local/state governments. Examples are legion. The FAA often doesn’t even take counsel from the Federal NTSB and has gone to court against them and won! The FAA apparently sees the elimination of TTF RA’s as a way to solve three perennial problems: 1)the airport noise issue (fewer nearby houses = fewer noise complaints), 2) the “airpark people don’t pay their share” problem and 3) the Congressional complaint that the FAA isn’t controlling development near airports. The AOPA can help us but, with only 50 airparks immediately affected, I cannot see AOPA “falling on their sword” over this issue. Same for EAA. So it will be up to us airpark residents. If we do not want to be picked off one-by-one, we need to get our collective act together, get a strategy in place, get some serious legal advice, and get moving on this. Time is not on our side and allowing this to go to Federal court is a poor strategy – – – we are almost certainly going to lose to the USG. We need to nip this thing now. Is “Living With Your Plane” the right organization to lead the charge on this or do we need to form some other organization/alliance?
    Very concerned,
    Mack

  4. Mack,

    Great thinking. Living With Your Plane is willing to help in whatever way the TTF RA’s need and we are able to provide. I will see if there is a way to ID the 50 airparks (as you mention) that will most be affected by this FAA’s position. Coordination of this group is paramount. If you have a list, please forward it to me at ben@generalaviationnews.com.

    Ben

  5. Jeff

    Given the current administrations comments since taking office, I do not believe any one can talk sense into them. It is apparent that they have decided private aviators are “rich” and must be taken down a notch, taxed and regulated into oblivion. It appears this is punishment for being “haves” insted of “have nots”. 🙁

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