FAA’s redrawn airpark policy a ‘better treatment’

October 27, 2010

The FAA’s revised draft policy on residential through-the-fence access (RTTF) puts forth “a much better treatment” of the issue than earlier proposals, AOPA said in formal comments submitted Oct. 25.  

AOPA also continues to point out that the policymaking now in progress on RTTF gives the FAA an opportunity to consider the larger question of encroachment of airports by nonaviation-related development—a problem which imposes tremendous operational and economic constraints at many airports.

The FAA issued its draft revisions in September on RTTF, which gives aircraft owners with homes adjacent to public-use airports access to taxiways and runways from across the airport boundary, such as at residential airparks. RTTF access currently exists at approximately 70 of the 3,400 airports that are eligible for federal airport improvement funds under the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

The draft policy would allow airports with existing RTTF operations to continue or expand them, provided that the airports can meet specific criteria. The draft policy does not allow new airports to provide for RTTF access.

AOPA issued preliminary comments on the revised rule on its publication in September, and continues to urge the FAA to reverse the prohibition on new RTTF access.

“In general AOPA believes that the updated policy is a much better treatment of existing Residential Through-The-Fence access than the previous draft compliance guidance letter from October 2009,” wrote AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro.  He commended the FAA for “carefully and thoughtfully examining the input provided by the aviation community and for making field visits to better understand the nuances of RTTF access as it exists today.”

Pecoraro added that the association does not believe it is necessary, as the draft proposes, to consult the Transportation Security Administration on RTTF access plans, except at a few airports “at which they may have some operational jurisdiction.”

He urged that RTTF policy ensure better lines of communication between regional FAA offices and airports on specific conditions and timelines for complying with the new policy, in connection with airport improvement projects.

In this AOPA Live® video, Pecoraro detailed the history of the FAA’s two-year review of RTTF. He said a bigger issue was emerging as a result of the RTTF access discussions.

“We think that this whole residential through the fence issue has really helped highlight the larger problem of residential encroachment around airports. And that’s an area where we agree with the FAA very strongly that residential development around airports usually is a problem for the airport,” he said in the interview with AOPA Live Executive Producer Warren Morningstar.

Congress has also taken up the issue, with Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introducing RTTF legislation. AOPA President Craig Fuller presented the association’s position on RTTF at a Sept. 22 hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“There may be circumstances in the future where an agreement to allow such access would bring significant economic development opportunities to the airport without the need for significant federal investment in the airport infrastructure. Such opportunities could be valuable in ensuring the financial health of the airport, and allow it to make its highest contribution to the community,” he said.

The RTTF policy under review does not affect the many private airports with some form of residential access to airport facilities nor does it affect publicly owned airports that have not accepted federal airport development funding, Pecoraro said.

The FAA will review all comments and then issue a final policy.