The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is pressing the FAA to offer pilots and aircraft owners more flexibility when it comes to the use of hangars at airports that have received federal funding.
In formal comments filed Sept. 18, AOPA urges the FAA to expand its definition of “aeronautical use” and to give the owners of private hangars more freedom to use hangars as they wish.
AOPA filed its comments in response to the FAA’s proposed updates to policies on the non-aeronautical use of hangars at airports that have received federal Airport Improvement Program funds. While those changes would ease the so-called “sterile hangar” approach, AOPA says the changes do not do enough to meet the needs of aviators.
“This issue is important to our members who want common sense to govern what constitutes an aeronautical use of hangar space,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “While we agree that hangars should be used primarily for aeronautical purposes and we appreciate the FAA’s attempts to clarify its rules, we ask that the agency go a little further to ensure the final policy reflects the practical realities of general aviation flying and ownership.”
Controversy over the FAA’s enforcement of hangar use policies followed a number of audits showing that some hangars were being used not to store aircraft, but other items, such as cars, furniture and household goods. Some of those airports have waiting lists for hangars, the FAA has noted.
Confusion over FAA guidance and complaints about uneven enforcement of the rules led the FAA to offer the current policy update. While AOPA agrees with the FAA that hangars should be used for aeronautical purposes, the association says the FAA’s definition is too narrow and is asking the agency to expand the definition to include aircraft construction and other aviation-related uses.
“AOPA believes that every hangar that has an aircraft based in it that is airworthy, in the process of becoming airworthy (under active construction, repair, or renovation) is an aeronautical use,” the association’s comments state. “Building an aircraft, next to actual flight, is possibly the quintessential aeronautical experience.”
AOPA’s comments note that it supports the amateur-built aircraft community, and it is asking the FAA to reclassify the entire construction process, “from the time the first component is laid out and fastened to another, until the aircraft rolls out the door of the hangar ready for its first flight” as an aeronautical use.
The association is also asking the FAA to treat privately owned hangars, built without the use of federal or airport funds, more like other types of private property. Many hangar owners view these spaces an extension of their homes, where their activities should not be subject to excessive scrutiny.
“If private hangar owners have an aircraft in their hangar, the FAA and airport sponsors should afford a wider degree of latitude in use, consistent with their lease, airport minimum standards for commercial aeronautical activities, and local building codes,” AOPA writes. “The primary use of the hangar must be aeronautical in nature and the non-aeronautical uses should not hinder that.”
In addition, AOPA wants the FAA to allow hangars to be used for a range of aviation-related items and activities that are not explicitly allowed under existing policy. These include allowing parachutes to be packed and stored in hangars along with training equipment and other items used in skydiving.
AOPA wants similar consideration given to gliders and balloons, both of which should be allowed to be stored in airport hangars. And, AOPA says, it makes sense to store seasonal aircraft equipment, such as skis, floats, and wheels, in a hangar with the aircraft itself. This, too, should specifically be considered an aeronautical use, the association argues.