Flexibility needed for through-the-fence access

December 23, 2009

The FAA’s proposed “one size fits all” approach to airparks and other residential through-the-fence (TTF) operations at public-use airports should be more flexible to accommodate existing TTF deeds and agreements, AOPA told the agency Dec. 18.

Aircraft operations involving homes and businesses on private property that have access to airport taxiways or runways are called “through the fence” operations. In the past, the FAA has approved residential TTF access, but set a very high standard for what constituted an acceptable agreement. In October the FAA invited AOPA and other aviation organizations to comment on a draft letter of guidance that would call for phasing out all existing residential TTF access at public-use airports. The new guidance would apply only to public-use airports that have accepted or are eligible for FAA airport development funding, and would require airport sponsors to negate or modify deeds for existing arrangements, some of them decades old—an action that could burden airports with the costs of litigation.

“We believe that the FAA should recognize that a number of residential TTF agreements already exist and in some cases any changes may be impossible for the airport sponsor to undertake without doing great damage to the airport and local aviation community,” AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro wrote in a letter to the FAA. Attempts to modify real estate deeds that allow TTF access could result in litigation against the airport, he added.

Earlier in the year, AOPA had urged the FAA airports office to exercise greater flexibility in current enforcement practices.

The new FAA guidance acknowledges no acceptable residential TTF agreements, a statement that AOPA considers a significant departure from the agency’s past policy. It would require sponsors to eliminate TTF access when agreements expire or modify agreements that grant access in perpetuity. Many AOPA members have voiced concerns about a “one size fits all” approach to residential TTF access and the possible elimination of existing operations.

AOPA recognized the FAA’s desire to review new, revised, or renewed TTF access agreements, but recommended the agency work closely with airport sponsors to ensure that existing agreements provide appropriate support to the airport and facilitate its continued operation, instead of eliminating the residential TTF access altogether.