Our thoughts on FAA’s TTF position

I hope you read the letter we published (yesterday) from Catherine Lang, FAA acting administrator for airports. It was addressed to Brent Blue of Jackson Hole, WY and was in response to his questions to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt relating to thru the fence (TTF) problems.

The letter from Lang spelled out the FAA’s positions more clearly than we’ve ever seen and they provide valuable insight. The FAA’s viewpoint, as explained by the acting associate administrator, also clearly shows us the errors of the FAA thinking.

One of the major points she makes is that “over the years, FAA has issued grants totaling $1.8 billion to buy land and homes, relocate residents, and mitigate the impacts of aircraft noise with soundproofing.” I don’t doubt for one minute that FAA has spent nearly $2 billion in such efforts over the last 20 years or so.

However, I wonder how much of that fund has been spent on airports like Chicago’s O’Hare, Sea-Tac in the Seattle-Tacoma area and other major airports. Has any money been spent to relocate residents or soundproof homes from near public airports at Independence, Oregon or Newton, Iowa or Bangor, Maine? We highly doubt it!

(As soon as we finish this piece, we plan to start researching the FAA website for details on where and for what the $1.8 billion has been spent. Keep watching!)

Basically, the other arguments made by Lang relate almost exclusively to air carrier airports. For example, the letter states that “residents of an airpark or an on-airport hangar home are no different from residents without airplanes. Both seek to preserve … their home … and may seek to force restrictions … to preserve their way of life.”

The airpark or on-airport hangar home owner values the airport and its convenience. The value of the home is enhanced for that individual by the proximity of the airport. Any person purchasing an on-airport hangar home would be expected to feel likewise, rather than being prone to seek restrictions, something that would lower the property value.

Lang’s letter notes that “FAA has no objection to airparks at private airports” because “they operate for the benefit of the private owners. Public airports receiving federal financial assistance operate for the benefit of the public and the public interest should in no way become subordinate to the private interests of airpark residents.”

The logic seems twisted to us in thinking that by allowing TTF agreements the public interest is subordinated.

Referring to discussions with and comments from AOPA, the acting associate administrator states that there are members who claim that the “airport fees they pay may subsidize airpark residents. … they believe they must pay more to use the airport because airpark residents do not pay their fair share of airport costs.”

We have no idea to whom she may be referring but we wonder what “airport fees they pay may subsidize airpark residents.” Are there landing fees? Are fuel costs different? What are the fees? TTF folks usually pay a fee to the airport. In one case we know the fee is equal to the monthly tiedown fee. These folks are also taxpayers so they are paying the same taxes as all others. If anything, it seems to us those utilizing a TTF agreement may be paying a higher percentage of the operating costs.

Finally, Lang’s letter states that “because there appears to be a fair amount of misinformation of this matter” the FAA is committed to work together with AOPA to prepare guidance that will be uniform among the FAA regions and stress a case-by-case approach.

We think it isn’t as much a case of misinformation as it is the FAA not understanding and accepting the differences between a major air carrier airport and a public-owned community facility.