Feb. 23, 2004 - The FAA has built flexibility into a stringent final rule on air carrier airport operations. Because the new rule now affects much smaller airports, AOPA had expressed concern that the high cost of meeting certification requirements, such as aircraft rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) equipment, would be passed on to general aviation pilots at those smaller airports. Because of AOPA's advocacy, those airports may be able to waive some of the requirements, reducing their costs, and ultimately the cost to GA pilots.
The new final rule revises FAR Part 139, "Certification of Airports," and now requires airports with scheduled air carrier service by aircraft as small as nine-passenger must now meet FAA certification requirements. Previously, airports only had to meet certification requirements if served by aircraft with 31 or more passenger seats. The FAA estimates that 43 additional airports will fall under Part 139 with the new, more stringent rule.
In formal comments that AOPA filed in November 2000 on the proposed rule, the association said the agency should exercise flexibility, especially in ARFF equipment requirements for smaller airports. Many of these airports have a large general aviation presence, and AOPA expressed concern that the cost of complying with Part 139 certification should not be passed on to GA tenants.
In announcing the final rule, the FAA acknowledged AOPA's concerns, saying that it will work with smaller airports to tailor their airport certification manuals as necessary and will allow those airports to apply for waivers to all or portions of the ARFF requirements.
"The FAA has wisely decided that what's required at La Guardia or O'Hare or Los Angeles International is more than what's necessary at someplace like Lewistown Municipal in Lewistown, Montana," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula.
The new rule goes into effect on June 9, 2004. Small airports will then have one year to submit their airport certification manuals to the FAA for approval.