AOPA receives numerous calls from members seeking information about holding an aviation event at their local airports. We have completed a four-step checklist to help you get started on any activities at your field.
Please keep in mind that this is a simple "get-started" checklist. As with most aviation endeavors, the devil is in the details. However, we have seen that the more difficult part of the process is often how and where to start; this checklist should enable you to take action and move ahead.
Most airport minimum standards or operational procedures documents will require notice and approval of any activities of a special nature. This will surely cover most events that you are considering; submitting requests in writing and getting approvals in writing is probably wise. Even if your airport doesn't have a formal standards or procedures document, you should still work toward a written agreement for your event.
Event-specific insurance is usually required at the option of airport management. You may need to check pricing and availability for your specific activities before any further planning or written requests. Note: EAA chapters often can obtain free, but limited, coverage via their national headquarters.
As events can run the gamut from the smallest pancake breakfast to the largest two-week commercial airshow, our best advice is to work to make the event a winning situation for all parties involved.
Keep in mind that if your airport is federally obligated, all revenue going to the airport ownership entity must go into the airport operating fund (FAA Order 5100.38A, Assurances, Airport Sponsors, Chapter 15). This hopefully would discourage the airport authority from using the airport to stage, or allowing someone else to stage, a rock concert to fund a parking deck or sewer project, for example.
The FARs to be waivered usually include aerobatics (91.303), speed (91.117), minimum safe altitude (91.119), and proximity to other aircraft (91.111). A complete list of FARs that can be considered for waiver is found as FAR 91.905.
It should be obvious that the typical fly-in pancake breakfast would not need these airshow waivers. However, if a spot-landing contest, for instance, was a part of the breakfast package and pilots gathered alongside of the runway, then minimum altitude/distance (500 feet) FARs may need to be waivered.
The FAA Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS, Order 8900.1) with spectator area distance requirements and FAA airshow guidelines is available from the FAA website.
Check with your county government. They usually have a procedure to package their general safety and inspection rules for a large public event, such as, the county fair or any tourism event.
Any and all facility closures, including individual taxiway and/or ramp closures, require proper notams in advance. Courts have interpreted the airport sponsor assurances to mean that an airport will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The FAA must approve any closure for a special event. Aviation events hopefully have promotional benefits but must still meet all requirements of closure reporting (FAA Order 5190.6A, Chapter 4).
Airport events continue to be popular with pilots, as well as with the general public, and can be an excellent promotional tool for aviation. Happy flying!
Updated Thursday, April 10, 2008