The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC) worked with state Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, and state Senator Joe Newhouse, R-Tulsa, to streamline laws regarding any structure near a public use airport in the state. Governor Mary Fallin signed HB 2179 into law last week.
During the 2010 legislative session, the “Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act” (APPPA) provided legislative intent to regulate the height of structures near public-use airports. It also required a person to obtain a permit from OAC prior to the construction, installation or alteration of any structure near a public use airport under certain circumstances. It provided conditions under which a structure is presumed to be a hazard to air navigation. It also required notice prior to and application for a permit from OAC and to file a permit with the county clerk.
“The goal of these changes is to streamline the statute, ensuring an efficient permitting process for those who have to apply and to update existing language to ensure it is in line with current airport industry standards,” said Ortega.
Grayson Ardies, airport development division manager with the commission stated, “Under APPPA originally, we did not intend to permit temporary structures. With this new language we added a specific item that states temporary structures that are in place less than 24 months do not require a permit from OAC. We ran into this problem at an airport in eastern Oklahoma where someone was placing a piece of mining equipment (that was going to sit idle and not operate as part of the mine) that did not fall within the existing item for mobile or temporary equipment. A permit for such a temporary structure should not be required as APPPA is intended to apply only to permanent structures.”
The law allows for issued permits to be amended for the purpose of micro-siting a structure. This was a specific request of several companies OAC issued permits to over the 6 year history of APPPA. During the application process, a company will submit the coordinates and elevations of the structure based upon surveys.
“As a strong advocate for aviation and aerospace in Oklahoma, I have seen the permitting process work based on the successes of the 2010 APPPA law enactment. These new changes will assist businesses and contractors to further work in harmony with state airports to keep aircraft approach surfaces clear,” Fallin said.
The bill updates items in the definition of incompatible use to ensure it is in line with national standards for airports. The changes will add in specific items such as a place of assembly (golf course, sporting field, etc.), transportation facility (roadway, parking lot, etc.), and storage facility (fuel tanks, waste-water holding tank, etc.) among others. This will bring the definition of incompatible use in line with airport standards for what should and shouldn’t be located within the confines of the primary surface (immediate area within 500 ft. of the runway) and the runway protection zone (extends approximately 2,500 ft. from the end of the runway). These are the locations that have the highest chance to see an aircraft crash during an emergency (either on takeoff or approach to landing) and should be as clear as possible to protect both those on the ground and those in the aircraft.
The bill will also extend the amount of time a person has to file an approved permit in the county clerk’s office and return a copy to OAC from 30 days to 60 days.
“Oklahoma’s aerospace industry, including our airports, is vital to Oklahoma’s economic growth. Determining under what circumstances structures must be permitted is a process that is critical for safety. At the same time, burdensome and unnecessary requirements can hinder job growth in other sectors,” Newhouse said. “These changes bring balance to the process without jeopardizing safety.”
The new law only applies to airspace in the immediate vicinity of public-use and military airports, the remaining 95% of Oklahoma’s airspace is unaffected by this law.