Minimum Standards Exemptions

Part one of a six part series on airport tenant relations and aviation legal matters


Valley Aviation Services presents the traditional Part 16 claim of economic discrimination between airport tenants in violation of Federal Grant Assurance 22. The complainant alleged that the respondent subjected it to disparate treatment and economic discrimination through strict enforcement of the minimum standards and airport regulations as to it, while the respondent simultaneously failed to enforce these same minimum standards and regulations with respect to other airport tenants.

In its defense, the respondent argued that the complainant and other airport tenants were “not similarly situated” by virtue of the fact that the complainant’s lease and the leases of other airport tenants were negotiated at different times.

As noted by the Director, (FAA office of airport compliance and management analysis) however, the negotiation of leases at different points in time is irrelevant to the enforcement of airport minimum standards and regulations with respect to all such tenants at a particular point in time. Essentially, the airport director’s determination is that, while shifts in airport minimum standards and regulations may account for differences in enforcement with respect to all tenants over the course of time, the only issue for evaluation with respect to Federal Grant Assurance 22 is whether all tenants are subject to enforcement of the same airport minimum standards and regulations at any given time.

The Director found the respondent in violation of Federal Grant Assurance 22 by virtue of the respondent’s intermittent and inconsistent enforcement of the airport rules and regulations as to all airport tenants over the sixteen years preceding the decision in Valley Aviation Services, particularly with respect to the storage of non-aeronautical vehicles and equipment, and the storage of disabled aircraft at the airport.

Of note, the Director’s decision seems only to except “incidental violations” by airport tenants, with respect to which the airport sponsor has no complicity. Therefore, to the extent that an airport tenant seeks an “exemption” from enforcement of the applicable airport minimum standards and/or rules and regulations that otherwise apply to all airport tenants, such an “exemption” will likely always substantiate another airport tenant’s claim of a violation of Federal Grant Assurance 22 in the event that said “exemption” is not likewise afforded to all airport tenants.

Federal Grant Assurance 29

Federal Grant Assurance 29 (implementing 49 U.S.C. § 47107(a)(16)), governs airport layout plans and prohibits airport sponsors from using designated aeronautical areas for non-aeronautical purposes. To the extent that an airport sponsor allows the use of designated aeronautical areas for non-aeronautical purposes, the airport sponsor must actually obtain explicit approval from the FAA for the non-aviation use on an interim basis.

Relying on Boca Airport, Inc. d/b/a Boca Aviation v. Boca Raton Airport Authority, FAA Docket No. 16-00-10 (March 20, 2003), the Director in Valley Aviation Services held that the respondent, City of Glendale, violated Federal Grant Assurance 29 in failing to ensure that all designated aeronautical areas were used only for aeronautical purposes.

Federal Grant Assurance 19

In accordance with Federal Grant Assurance 19 (implementing 49 U.S.C. § 47107(a)(7)), an airport sponsor must “not cause or permit any activity or action [on the airport] which would interfere with its use for airport purposes.”

The most common improper and noncompliant land uses are situations where nonaeronautical leaseholds are located on designated aeronautical use land without FAA approval or on property not released by FAA, and permitting dedicated aeronautical property to be used for nonaeronautical uses. Examples of typical uses include using hangars to store vehicles or other unrelated items. Other improper land uses found in the past have included using aeronautical land for nonaeronautical purposes such as animal control facilities, non-airport vehicle and maintenance equipment storage, aircraft museums, and municipal administrative offices.

In Valley Aviation Services, the complainant alleges that the respondent is in violation of Federal Grant Assurance 19 by virtue of the respondent’s (1) allowing the operation of non-aeronautical activities in airport hangars; (2) allowing the storage of non-aeronautical items (police vehicles, classic cars, carpet, RVs, etc.) in airport hangars; and (3) allowing extended and/or unlimited storage of non-airworthy and/or disabled aircraft on the airport.

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