How would you like it if you were on the waiting list to get a hangar at your airport and you knew that one of the current tenants used his hangar to store his motor home, a pool table, and parts of a car and old furniture — everything but an airplane? Chances are that you’d complain about the unfairness of it all to the airport manager. And chances are the airport manager would agree with you.
That’s the case at Falcon Field Airport (FEZ) in Mesa, Ariz., where airport officials are taking a hard line with airport tenants who violate their lease agreements by not using their hangars for aircraft storage.
According to Airport Director Corinne Nystrom, the airport has 412 hangars, most of them T-hangars built within the last 30 years. Airport officials have decided to conduct random inspections of the city-owned facilities to make sure tenants are operating within the guidelines of their leases.
“Most of them do,” said Nystrom, “but occasionally there is someone who does not. Over the years we have found hangars converted into workshops or people storing boats and RVs in them.”
The city also has spotted illegal businesses, such as paint shops, operating out of hangars.
“They get found out because they have the door open and a city employee drives by and sees it,” she said. “The agreement that they signed specifically states that they cannot operate businesses out of their hangars.”
Aircraft construction and some light maintenance is permitted, she noted, as long as the hangar occupant complies with city fire codes.
At the present time, tenants are allowed to keep some non-aviation items in their hangars as long as they are incidental to the aircraft storage, she said. “We’re okay with bicycles and such as long as there is an aircraft in there.”
In order to inspect the hangars, city officials are notifying tenants 48 hours in advance, then meeting them at the building. Their leases stipulate that the city is allowed to inspect the premises, said Nystrom, but the leaseholder has to open the door.
“The city does not have keys to the locks. The tenants supply their own,” she said. “We visited with the tenants about the possibility of the city putting locks on the hangars and the tenants were adamant that they did not want that.”
She noted that Falcon Field is the only airport in the region that does not have city-supplied locks on hangars.
In addition to looking for improperly used hangars, the city is also checking to be sure that the aircraft are properly registered and that the registration matches the name on the hangar lease.
“We do not allow subletting,” Nystrom explained. “That is one of the biggest problems we have. There are over 200 people on the waiting list to get a hangar and then there are people who sublet a hangar to one of their buddies who is way down on the waiting list or maybe not on the list at all and that is not fair.”
Tenants who blatantly violate their leases are sent notices of termination and given 30 days to move.
Hangar inspections also are done to make sure the buildings are up to code and not in need of repair. In past years the inspections uncovered potentially life-threatening situations.
“This was before my time, but one of the inspections found a meth lab operating in one of the hangars,” said Nystrom.
The good news is that the city has leased some land to private developers who have expressed a desire to build more hangars.
“The city ran the numbers to see what it would cost to build more hangars and learned that we would have to charge twice as much as we are charging now to make the project work. When the private sector gets hold of it they will charge what they need to charge to make it work.”
About 990 aircraft are based at the airport, with the majority single-engine planes. A basic T-hangar rents for $198 a month.