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AOPA battles airport curfews, noise restrictions based on aircraft weight, engine type: Palm Beach CountyAOPA battles airport curfews, noise restrictions based on aircraft weight, engine type: Palm Beach County

Mr. Vernon Rupinta
Orlando Airports District Office
5950 Hazeltine National Drive
Suite 400
Orlando, FL 32822-5024

Dear Mr. Rupinta:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) represents the general aviation interests of more than 360,000 individual pilots and aircraft owners in the United States, more than 26,000 who reside in the state of Florida. AOPA represents the interest of that section of the aviation industry defined as general aviation and provides advocacy for the preservation of the general aviation industry including access to public-use airports.

In June 1973, the Palm Beach County Park Airport (Lantana) instituted an airport access restriction to the effect "All jet aircraft in addition to all aircraft weighing in excess of 12,500 pounds engaged in aircraft cargo operations, shall be prohibited from parking, landing or taking off from the Lantana Airport." This aircraft type and weight-based restriction was originally introduced as part of the "Lantana Park Airport Noise Regulation" issued by the airport board and submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Orlando Airports District Office (ADO) for review and approval. As we were surprised to discover, the chief of the planning section sent a simplistic letter in reply to the airport attorney explaining the FAA officially had no objection to the proposed access restrictions.

While AOPA recognizes the FAA provided the required approval for implementation of this access restriction, we are unsure of the background and basis on which this determination was made. It is our understanding that in order to impose any airport access restriction, clear and substantial evidence is required to prove the restriction is reasonable and does not unjustly discriminate against any type or class of user. Therefore, AOPA requests an investigation into the reasonableness and discriminatory aspect of the Lantana Airport access restriction in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 13.1, Subpart A, "Investigative Procedures."

The restriction was implemented as part of a noise related local regulation, thereby leading us to infer its intent was to reduce noise impacts to the area surrounding the airport. Viewed as a measure to reduce noise, the restriction must be related to actual aircraft noise and not arbitrarily related to aircraft type or weight. For example, an aircraft that is simply referenced through the basic type of engine it uses is not adequate enough of a description and justification for denying access to the airport for noise reduction purposes. A noise problem must first be identified and mitigation programs calculated based on the same unit of measurement, which in this case is noise—not an "apples-to-oranges" comparison as is being applied by Lantana.

There is also no reasonable rationale in limiting aircraft based on aircraft weight in correlation with how the aircraft is utilized if the purpose is to limit aircraft noise impacts. What noise benefits are received if an aircraft is carrying passengers instead of cargo? While aircraft weight and noise are correlated components in determining FAR Part 36 compliance, the inherently ridiculous restriction of all airport users based on aircraft weight and intended use does not provide sufficient justification as an effective means to reduce aircraft noise impacts. Therefore, it becomes very difficult if not impossible to ascertain if Lantana Airport has in place a system that alleviates noise for the surrounding communities. This leads us to conclude the Lantana Airport access restriction to be a clear case of unjust discrimination, in violation of federal statutes, regulations and policies.

The provisions of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) of 1990 do not apply to this noise-based restriction. However, by accepting over $2.4 million through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant process since 1983, the airport access restriction imposed at Lantana must still pass the tests inherently associated with the FAA grant assurance requirements. Because we believe the access restriction against jet aircraft and aircraft in excess of 12,500 lbs. conducting cargo operations is unreasonable and unjustly discriminatory, any further attempt to implement the access restriction can be construed as a violation of the AIP grant assurances as prescribed in 49 U.S.C. § 47107(a).

Specifically, AOPA believes the access restriction violates Assurance 22 "Economic Nondiscrimination," which states, in part:

  1. [the sponsor] will make its airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes or aeronautical uses.
  1. "...may establish such equal and not unjustly discriminatory conditions to be met by all users of the airport as may be necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the airport."

FAA Order 5190.6A, Section 4-8 (f) also summarizes both the sponsor’s responsibility with regards to airport access restrictions and the FAA’s responsibility to adhere to that guidance. Section 4-8 (f) states, in part, access restrictions "must be reasonably consistent with reducing noncompatiblity of land uses around the airport, must not create an undue burden on interstate or foreign commerce, and must not be unjustly discriminatory."

Thank you for taking our concerns into consideration. In order for this issue to be resolved through the informal process in a timely manner for all parties involved, we request your investigation into this issue be conducted with a preliminary determination reached no later than 90 days from your receipt of this letter. We prefer resolution in this forum as opposed to moving forward with formal action under the FAR Part 16 process. Please contact me at 301/695-2204 if you have any questions on this or any other related matter.


Christy Gerencher
Manager, Airport Policy

cc: Mr. Bruce V. Pelly, Director of Palm Beach County Airports

August 22, 2000

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