Q: We’ve been having trouble at our airpark with delivery truck drivers, as well as individuals, driving down the runway when looking for someone’s house or just plain lost.
We’ve put up signs and we’ve asked all our fly-in community residents to warn their friends about keeping to the correct streets and to be careful so they don’t get onto the runway. Unfortunately, it keeps happening. We haven’t had any accidents yet, but some of us are really worried it can happen. Got any good ideas?
A: Your airpark isn’t alone in this problem. Drivers of cars and trucks getting confused and ending up on the runway when they mean to go down a street or taxiway aren’t at all uncommon.
The closer to a large city, the worse the situation seems to be, from what people tell me. I don’t know why that is, except perhaps there’s more traffic coming to the airpark or people are less careful in metropolitan areas.
Although there are lots of people who oppose it, I think the best solution is a fence around the entire property, if possible or, at a minimum, around the runway and any parallel taxiway.
Many say fencing the entire property makes it seem elitist and reenforces the image of the “rich airplane pilot and owner.” Others object to a fence because they find it an inconvenience to have to open a gate, whether it is via a phone-type system or garage door opener format. Finally, I’ve had people say it makes them feel like they are being fenced in rather than others are being fenced out.
All that being understandable, a fence is still the best way to keep unwanted traffic out of an area. Ever see an airport with commercial operations that doesn’t have fencing? Most general aviation airports today also have fenced in the airplane traffic areas for security, as well as for keeping unauthorized traffic away.
In addition to the safety benefits of fencing the airpark, there are a few other positives that should be considered. For example, an appraiser looking at the property for a possible sale will probably look with favor at the fencing and increase the property valuation. Insurance firms will also look favorably on the fencing when it comes to setting a premium for the homeowners association or your individual homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, those same higher values probably will result in somewhat higher tax assessments.
I think the cost of the fence, whether it is the entire airpark property or just the runway areas, is offset by the peace of mind you should gain, the reduction in the potential for accidents, and the possibility of lower insurance premiums.
Finally, if Homeland Security ever tries to mandate fencing and other security measures around the country, you might escape some more onerous requirements by having already protected your aircraft and thus become grandfathered in.
Dave Sclair, a renowned expert on airparks, is the co-founder of Living With Your Plane (LivingWithYourPlane.com).