FAA Proposes to add Wildlife Management Requirements to Federal Airport Grant Program

In a December 10, 2012 Federal Register notice, the FAA announced its proposal to require non-certificated airports that receive federal grant funds to identify and mitigate wildlife hazards at their airports.  The mitigation mandate will take the form of initial Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) or Wildlife Hazard Assessments (WHAs), depending on the
size of the airport, potentially followed by more detailed Wildlife Hazard Management Plans (WHMPs).

The FAA’s stated purpose of a WHSV is for the airport to identify any immediate hazards and for the FAA to determine whether a more comprehensive WHA is necessary.  However, small general aviation airports may become unnecessarily burdened by these proposed requirements.  Wildlife hazard mitigation programs can be costly and burdensome, especially in the current fiscal climate.  Airport owners and managers with questions or concerns about the FAA’s proposed Wildlife Hazard Assessment program should consult with legal counsel.

Cincinnati’s Closure of Blue Ash Airport is Indicative of Municipal Agendas

In a move reminiscent of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s closure of Megis Field, Cincinnati City Manager, Milton Dohoney, has communicated to the FAA the City’s intention to close Blue Ash airport after a land swap deal between the city and the airport fell through.  Because neither the City nor the airport are currently receiving federal grant monies, the FAA cannot require the City to keep the airport open.  (Read the article here)

Cincinnati’s blow to general aviation provides a salient reminder that thanks to the current architecture of New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law, airports across the Garden State could fall victim to a similar fate.  Many general aviation airports in New Jersey operate as pre-existing non-conforming uses in zones that have been significantly altered by municipal governments in the decades since the airports opened.  The current push for revitalization and redevelopment across the state has provided the impetus for municipalities to create areas in need of redevelopment (formerly known as “blighted areas”) and begin condemnation proceedings.  Airports included in such areas could fall victim to the forced sale of their lands to developers.  Aggressive government relations plans and ongoing communication with municipal officials are key measures to prevent adverse government action.  Airports seeking to implement such strategies should consult attorneys experienced in both land use and aviation in order to develop a comprehensive plan.  Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in developing such a plan for your airport.

FAA Proposes Policy Revisions for Through-The-Fence Operations

The FAA is seeking public comments regarding proposed rules on through-the-fence operations at airports which receive federal grant funds. The proposed rules effect and enforce the terms and conditions of through-the-fence agreements between federally-obligated airports and residential property owners, as required by 49 USC § 47107. Although existing agreements between property owners and non-commercial airports may be grandfathered under the proposed policy, new agreements will subject residential property owners to explicit terms and conditions, including access charges, infrastructure costs, access control, refueling prohibitions, and property maintenance strictly for residential use.

Comments regarding the proposed rules are due by August 29, 2012. If you need assistance with a through-the-fence agreement, or any other operational issues, please contact us.