Is That a Boat in Your Hangar?

By Bill Dunn
Bill Dunn_5.pngIf so, you might want to consider moving it. That is, unless it doesn’t impede access to or movement of your airplane. That wouldn’t have been the case last year, but it may be today.

On June 15th, the FAA published the agency’s long-awaited Policy on the Non-Aeronautical Use of Airport Hangars (Federal Register Vol 81 No. 115 page 38906). The final policy is a far cry from the initial policy proposed in July 2014, as well as past agency guidance to airports. In 2014, absolutely nothing outside of an aircraft and incidental items necessary for maintenance or operation of the aircraft could be stored in hangars.

The FAA’s previous view had always been that airport hangars are for use and storage of aircraft. Period. Policing the compliance with this FAA view was done through FAA grant assurance obligations and was pretty much left to the airport manager to enforce. Self-certification it’s called. But this all changed during a major brew-ha-ha that erupted at the Glendale, Arizona Airport when Valley Aviation Services, LLP filed a Part 16 Complaint (FAA Docket 16-09-06) against the City of Glendale, the airport sponsor.

On May 24, 2011, the FAA in its Director’s Determination found the airport sponsor in violation of its federal grant assurances for allowing non-aeronautical use of airport hangars for storing non-aviation items. From that point forward, the FAA’s pendulum on non-aviation use of airport hangars swung completely in the opposite direction with little flexibility. Even if you had an airplane in your hangar, no cars, boats, motor homes, fork lifts, etc could share the space. Didn’t matter how much space you actually had in the hangar. And to top it all off, the construction of an experimental aircraft was not considered an aviation use of the hangar space.

Some airport sponsors took this Part 16 Director’s Determination against Glendale to be the final word. If it doesn’t have wings; it cannot be stored in the hangar. In Hawaii, where the state owns all of the airports, including GA airports, if so much as a set of golf clubs was stored in the corner of your hangar, you received a CRIMINAL citation to appear in court. The tenant was not even provided an opportunity to cure the alleged violation.

You could certainly hear the dissatisfied and rightfully angered voices of airport tenants, hangar tenants, and even some airport managers reaching fever pitch. The FAA was under tremendous pressure to modify their policy and show a just a wee-bit of flexibility. Some members of the US Congress even took note of the hardline agency position and began offering potential legislative solutions that would undercut FAA’s enforcement activities in the non-aeronautical use of hangars.

So after much back and forth between industry, FAA, Congress and airports, the FAA has finally issued their Final Policy. It certainly seems to be a more balanced approach.

The final policy requires that hangars located on airport property must be used for an aeronautical purpose unless alternative uses are approved by the FAA Office of Airports. The agency is now willing to allow hangars to be used for alternative purposes when there is no aviation demand. But those uses must be short-term with the ability to terminate that use when aviation demand does exist. Additionally, rental payments must be at fair market value for commercial uses, which will be higher than for aviation uses.

The new policy also allows the construction of home-built aircraft in a hangar so long as any local regulations are followed, such as insurance, stowage of certain materials, and building codes.

But the biggie in all of this is that a hangar tenant may now store non-aviation items (including golf clubs) in the hangar provided that those items do not impede access to or movement of other aeronautical contents in the hangar or displace aeronautical use items from the hangar.

As a final thought, keep in mind that this policy only applies to airports that are obligated under AIP or other agreements with the Federal government such as surplus property agreements. It also applies to privately owned hangars that sit on land leased from an obligated airport. If the airport has no such obligations, none of this applies nor do FAA grant assurances.

Have questions or need help on any FAA policy matter? Give us a call or send me an e-mail. We can assist you in sorting through this new FAA policy and others.

Bill Dunn is the President of Aviation Strategies. Prior to his retirement in December 2014, Bill served 23-years as Vice President of Airports at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). In this capacity, he served as the Association’s lead advocate for General Aviation airports. You can reach Bill at 913-498-9393 or