Proposed R.I. aeronautics regulations exceed authority

October 27, 2010

AOPA has notified the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) that its proposed aeronautics regulations include numerous provisions that exceed the state’s jurisdiction, intrude on private property rights, or impose paperwork burdens that could expose pilots to identity theft.

RIAC, a quasi-governmental agency, acts as the state’s aeronautics agency and operates seven of the eight public landing areas in Rhode Island—six airports and a helicopter facility. Under state law, RIAC has jurisdiction and “statutory duty to adopt and enforce rules and regulations to protect the safety of persons operating or using aircraft and persons and property on the ground and to develop and promote aeronautics within Rhode Island.” It also wields authority to “promulgate rules and regulations for the safe and efficient operation of airports, airport facilities and grounds.”

RIAC announced the regulatory proposals on Aug. 17, 2010.

Greg Pecoraro, AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy, expressed concern in a letter to the RIAC that the agency “appears to be attempting to preempt federal regulations and promulgate other proposed rules that may have unintended consequences.”
Commenting on ten individual sections of the proposed regulations, Pecoraro urged the state agency to first see that the “appropriate offices of the FAA be asked to review them from a compliance standpoint.”

Of the sections he listed, one called for the owner of a private landing field to notify local police and fire officials 24 hours “prior to the date and time of each use or operation at the Landing Field.” AOPA viewed that requirement “as a gross intrusion into the use of private property and contrary to common sense,” he said.

Another provision, for RIAC personnel making aircraft inspections, prompted Pecoraro to ask, in the Oct. 22 letter to Peter A. Frazier, RIAC’s general counsel, “Do they have the training and understanding of aircraft to conduct any type of inspection outside of paperwork? If not, AOPA suggests that operational inspection of aircraft be left to the FAA’s Flight Standards Inspectors who are specifically trained to conduct these types of inspections, and are charged with this responsibility under federal regulations.”

A proposed section regulating ultralight aircraft “can be boiled down to one sentence” that ultralights flying in Rhode Island should comply with the federal aviation regulations, he wrote.

Other provisions seemed to suggest that “RIAC is using the aircraft registration process to impose an insurance requirement on all aircraft based in Rhode Island,” for which AOPA finds no authority, or contained paperwork requirements that could expose pilots to identity theft, he said.

After the RIAC reviews all comments, a revised set of regulations will be posted. After 30 days, those regulations will become state law, Pecoraro said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.