Airport Frequently Asked Questions -- Through-the-Fence Operations

Airport Frequently Asked Questions

Through-the-Fence Operations

The Issue

There are instances when the owner of a public airport permits access to the public landing area by independent operators offering an aeronautical activity or by aircraft based on land adjacent to, but not a part of, the airport property. This type of arrangement is commonly called a through-the-fence operation. Through-the-fence operations include businesses or individuals that have access to the airport infrastructure from outside airport property, or that utilize airport property to conduct a business but do not rent business space at the airport. More common types of through-the-fence agreements are for free-lance flight instruction, aircraft maintenance, and aircraft hangars.

The Importance to Our Members

The lease of airport property produces revenue that is needed for operating, maintaining and improving the airport. Individuals and businesses that are granted access to the airport from off airport property do not contribute to the airport fund. Should the off airport access allow operator to become more economically competitive, it may reduce the ability of on-field lessees to compete for services and will diminish the economic viability of the airport.

Key Issues and FAA Standards

FAA is not "against" a through-the-fence operation, although they do strongly discourage it. There is no obligation for an airport to provide such access; rather the issue is dependent in negotiating an agreement, which will benefit the airport. If an airport allows such access, the service provided by the newcomer should include some type of compensation, similar to those paid by other business tenants at the airport. Frequently, a yearly fee, percentage of the gross profits or an access fee may be satisfactory ways of allowing this type of operation. Again, it is important that the airport operator ensure that a through the fence operator be subjected to conditions similar to those applicable to the businesses at the airport in order to avoid complications and possible violations of the grant assurances.

The development of neighboring airport property for use by an individual or firm that utilizes the airport can provide the airport additional service, or introduce "airport friendly" neighbors. However, the airport must contend with the legal, insurance, safety, and management implications of such access. Allowing access to one through-the-fence operator may invite future or previously denied operators the opportunity for the same privilege.

If a through-the-fence issue exists at your airport or is being proposed, you should first contact the airport management. Assistance should be obtained from FAA personnel in either the local Airport District Office (ADO) or the Regional Airports Office in determining the reasonableness of any through-the-fence agreements. Ultimately, the airport will have to consider all of the pros and cons of through-the-fence agreements at their airport.

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