Airport Frequently Asked Questions -- Exclusive Rights and Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Activities

Airport Frequently Asked Questions

Exclusive Rights and Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Activities

The Issue

Minimum Standards outline the minimum requirements needed to conduct commercial aeronautical activities at an airport. Most typically what it takes to be a fixed base operator (FBO) at that airport. These documents, which are airport specific, outline in writing what is needed to conduct business services at that airport without granting an exclusive right by one company to provide such services. These standards should be reasonable and frequently updated to address changes and service needs of the airport. While frequently presented together, Minimum Standards are separate from airport rules and regulations.

The Importance to Our Members

The FAA has intensified its suggestion for airports to establish Commercial Minimum Standards in AC 150/5190-6 Exclusive Rights and Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Activities  and AC 150/5190-7 Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical ActivitiesBecause of this, many airports are establishing Minimum Standards for the first time or updating old standards to meet the current needs of the airport. Well-written Minimum Standards give the airport the ability to maintain a high level of aeronautical service to the flying public and to promote the orderly development of businesses at the airport. While Minimum Standards directly impact those wishing to conduct business on the airport, such as an FBO, the types and level of service they provide are important to pilots and airport patrons.

Key Issues and FAA Standards

In addition to the information listed in AOPA's Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Activities , the FAA has recently published an updated Advisory Circular titled Exclusive Rights and Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Activities, AC-150/5190.5. This AC is pertinent to both airport sponsors and users. One important aspect of this new AC is that it formalizes the concept of specialized aviation service operators or SASOs. SASOs are also sometimes known as single service operators or special fixed base operators because these businesses offer a single or limited service, such as flight training, aircraft maintenance, aircraft sales, or other specialized commercial flight support businesses.

Minimum Standards can be designed to promote higher levels of service from airport businesses. A cautionary note is that, if an airport sponsor attempts to design their Minimum Standards so as to protect only the interest of one business operator, it can be interpreted as the granting of an exclusive right and potentially be in violation of grant assurance 23, "Exclusive Rights." Certain exceptions do exist to the exclusive rights clause and are not considered exclusive rights including: when the aeronautical activities are being conducted by the airport sponsor, when only one business has taken the opportunity to conduct business at the airport, when the airport could only support one business, or when space limitations only allow for one business.

Pilots and aircraft owners have certain privileges granted to them in 14 CFR Part 43 for preventative maintenance of their aircraft. An airport sponsor may impose restrictions on self-servicing and self-fueling of aircraft provided that the restrictions are necessary to promote safety, maintain airport efficiency, preserve the airport facilities without compromising the environment, and most importantly, do not violate grant assurance 22, "Economic Discrimination." This could preclude an individual from doing such maintenance in their hangar, however the airport sponsor must provide or make available an area for owner/operator self-servicing activities.

The FAA stresses that, where Minimum Standards are adopted, they should be applied objectively to all on-airport commercial aeronautical activities. Imposing unreasonable or onerous Minimum Standards on airport businesses may violate the FAA's policy on exclusive rights. Airport owner / operators who receive federal financial assistance must agree to uphold that policy. The key is that the guidelines must be fair and flexible. The airport may develop reasonable, relevant, and applicable standards for each type and class of service. These standards may be supplemented, amended, or modified by the airport owner/operator from time to time and in such a manner and to such extent as is deemed reasonable and appropriate.

Minimum Standards should be airport specific and address the needs of the airport and the public. It would be a good idea for the airport to submit a copy of the proposed Minimum Standards to the FAA Airport District Office for their review. The FAA makes the final determination on exclusive rights and grant assurance violations. Individuals with concerns on exclusive rights and Minimum Standards violations should follow the FAA's informal request for investigation (14 CFR Part 13.1) that is outlined in AOPA's Guide to Airport Compliance.

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