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Suggested Citation:"II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. A Guide for Compliance with Grant Agreement Obligations to Provide Reasonable Access to an AIP-Funded Public Use General Aviation Airport. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22208.
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Suggested Citation:"II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. A Guide for Compliance with Grant Agreement Obligations to Provide Reasonable Access to an AIP-Funded Public Use General Aviation Airport. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22208.
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6 II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND A. Definitions of Key Terms This Guide focuses on the GA airports that have a federal obligation to be available for public use on reasonable and not unjustly discriminatory terms. At the broadest level, the term “general avia- tion airport” refers to a landing area that supports aircraft operations other than commercial service. These landing fields may include airports, heli- ports, and seaplane bases (referred to collectively herein as “airports”). An airport can have some limited level of commercial passenger service and still be considered a GA airport. Congress and FAA have developed a detailed categorization for the 378 “primary” airports (which accommodate commercial service and have more than 10,000 passenger boardings each year) as large hub, medium hub, small hub, or nonhub. FAA also recognizes “reliever airports,” which are airports designated by the Secretary of Transpor- tation to relieve congestion at a commercial ser- vice airport and provide more general aviation access to the overall community. But FAA also includes approximately 3,000 airports in an amor- phous category of “general aviation airports” without further categorization. As discussed in the next section, FAA has recognized this defi- ciency and has been working to develop a catego- rization system for the different types of GA air- ports. Another concept that is integral to this Guide is the characterization of a GA airport as “federally obligated,” “grant-obligated” or “AIP-obligated.” These descriptors refer to the fact that these air- ports are subject to the requirements of the Air- port Sponsor Assurances, which are contractual obligations required by federal law and agreed to by airport operators in exchange for grant funding through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) or other federal obligations, such as the Surplus Property Act of 1944. As detailed throughout this Guide, the Airport Sponsor Assurances include two critical requirements: 1) to “make the airport available as an airport for public use on reason- able terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activi- ties,” and 2) to “permit no exclusive right for the use of the airport by any person providing, or in- tending to provide, aeronautical services to the public.” Federally obligated airports can be distin- guished from private, non-federally obligated air- ports. Many GA airports are owned by private entities and made available only to those aircraft operators that have been given express permis- sion to use the airport. These airports include, for example, fly-in communities where homeowners on or around the airport are the only ones who have the right to use the airport and airports used for specialized aeronautical activities such as sky- diving and gliders. Although some of these air- ports may be available for public use and may have made a commitment along these lines as part of a state or local permit or authorization, these airports are not required by the Airport Sponsor Assurances or other federal obligation to be available to the public. There are several legal principles addressed in this Guide that are relevant to privately owned, private-use airports, including preemption and the limits on local governments using land-use power to restrict access to conduct aeronautical activities. However, because this Guide is focused on the requirements of the Airport Sponsor As- surances, privately owned, private-use airports are beyond the scope of this Guide. B. Types of GA Airports In 2010, FAA initiated a comprehensive review of GA airports, in part to reclassify these airports according to level of activity and functions served. FAA identified 2,952 GA airports and created four categories: national, regional, local, and basic. In May 2012, FAA published the results of this initiative in a report entitled General Aviation Airports: A National Asset. In March 2014, FAA published the results of a follow-up study to cate- gorize the almost 500 airports that did not fit into one of the four airport categories during the first effort. The Asset Study included a detailed examina- tion of the diverse aeronautical activities occur- ring at GA airports and amply demonstrated the idea expressed in the Introduction to this Guide that GA airports accommodate a wide variety of aeronautical activities. The Asset Study also con- firmed the variability in the size and activity lev- els at GA airports. There are, at one end of the spectrum, 852 basic airports with moderate to low levels of activity and an average of 10 propeller- driven-based aircraft. There are, at the other end of the spectrum, 84 national airports with very high activity levels and an average of 200 based aircraft, including 30 or more jets.1 1 The Asset Study provides specific examples of each category of airport. For example: Van Nuys Airport out- side of Los Angeles, California, is a National Airport;

7 The vast majority of the GA airports included in the Asset Study have received grants under the AIP and are therefore subject to the Airport Spon- sor Assurances. Each such GA airport operator, from the smallest basic airport to the largest na- tional airport, is responsible for complying with each of the Assurances, including the obligations that are central to this Guide, to “make the air- port available as an airport for public use on rea- sonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical ac- tivities” and to refrain from granting an “exclu- sive right.” Although GA airports may be subject to a uni- form set of Airport Sponsor Assurances, they often do not have the internal resources or expertise to dedicate to compliance. As a practical matter, ba- sic airports typically have limited staff and, in some communities, may not have dedicated staff at all. Instead, a local public works or transporta- tion department manager may be responsible for managing the airport. Airport operations and maintenance may be performed as an ancillary function by city or county staff or private contrac- tors. Some airports are managed by a commercial operator, such as a fixed-base operator, or a pri- vate airport management company. Further, GA airports do not have uniform rules, standards, and policies in place that clearly identify the terms and conditions by which aero- nautical activities can occur at the airport. FAA recommends but does not require that airport op- erators develop airport rules and regulations, air- port minimum standards, and leasing, rents, and fees policies. C. Types of GA Airport Operators In the United States, most public use airports are owned by public entities, including states, counties, cities, special districts, airport authori- ties, airport commissions, port authorities, and colleges and universities. A 2010 survey of approximately 250 GA airports revealed that nearly three-quarters of GA airports are operated by a general purpose government and one-quarter are operated by special-purpose entities.2 Ankeny Regional Airport near Ankeny, Iowa, is a Re- gional Airport; Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Inyo County, California, is a Local Airport; and Taylor County Airport near Medford, Wisconsin, is a Basic Airport. 2 See PAUL MEYERS, GUIDEBOOK FOR DEVELOPING GENERAL AVIATION AIRPORT BUSINESS PLANS (Transpor- tation Research Board, Airport Cooperative Research Program Report 77, 2012). D. Types of Access Limits Limits on access to GA airports can take many forms and affect a wide variety of aeronautical activities. For purposes of this Guide, limits on access have been divided into three basic catego- ries: 1) limits on aeronautical activities, 2) limits on aircraft operations, and 3) limits on the lease and use of airport property. Some examples of limits on aeronautical activi- ties include restrictions of on-airport parachute drop zones, flight training, banner towing, experimental aircraft, ultralights and gliders, and scheduled passenger service. Some examples of limits on aircraft operations include curfews on nighttime aircraft operations, prohibitions on jets or other aircraft producing high noise levels, prohibitions or limits on “touch- and-go” and “stop-and-go” operations, and restric- tions based on aircraft weight. Some examples of limits on the lease and use of airport property include informal policies or prac- tices discouraging the lease of property to addi- tional fixed-base operators (FBOs) or other com- mercial aeronautical service providers and the imposition of terms and conditions on the lease and use of airport property that are commercially impracticable. In addition to these general categories of access limits, there are several other important features of limits on access that have practical and legal effect, including the following: 1. Direct versus indirect restrictions—An impor- tant characteristic of limits on access is whether the limit is direct or indirect. An example of a di- rect limit would be a rule adopted by the GA air- port operator’s governing body prohibiting touch- and-go operations between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. An example of an indirect limit would be an informal policy or practice of refusing to ne- gotiate with prospective tenants who desire to conduct commercial aeronautical activities at an airport. Both direct and indirect limits implicate the Airport Sponsor Assurances and may consti- tute a violation. 2. Mandatory restrictions versus voluntary measures—The flight of aircraft is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States; airport operators may not require aircraft to follow any particular flight paths or flight procedures. GA airport operators may suggest noise abatement departure procedures and other measures to reduce noise over residential communities sur- rounding the airport. These procedures are often labeled as “voluntary” or “recommended.” GA

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TRB’s Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Legal Research Digest 23: A Guide for Compliance with Grant Agreement Obligations to Provide Reasonable Access to an AIP-Funded Public Use General Aviation Airport describes the assurances made by airport sponsors that receive grants from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and how these assurances limit the sponsor from unreasonably restricting access for aeronautical activity at general aviation airports.

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