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A Foot in the Slamming Door

EAA, lawmakers stand up against FAA's through-the-fence policy

It’s a perfect morning; the sun is just beginning to glow in a cool blue sky, and there is not a wisp of wind. It’s a great day for flying, you think, as you step out of your house into your hangar, do your preflight, and taxi directly to the runway.

The ultimate dream for many EAA members and other aircraft owners is to have instant access to their airplane and a runway, just as drivers do to their car and the street. Imagine, then, if you backed out of your driveway one morning, turned the corner, and found a gate smack across the road that led to the highway out of town.

That’s the situation aircraft owners who currently have or might want future access to the nation’s publicly owned airports could face. The FAA’s proposed new through-the-fence policy (TTF) would cut off the ability to connect with the very transportation system that enables the freedom of flight. The FAA originally wanted to end all current TTF agreements on public-use airports and ban any future ones.

EAA’s advocacy staff and many members quickly made it known that was not acceptable. EAA even created a plan that would allow the FAA to give local jurisdictions the option of writing such agreements, while maintaining prudent safety and security precautions.

The FAA then proposed to allow current TTF arrangements to remain in effect until the existing agreements came up for renewal; then those TTF operations would be banned, too…eventually allowing the FAA to slam the door on that ultimate dream completely. Did the FAA hope that by quieting the most vocal opponents they could eventually accomplish their long-term policy direction?

Cutting off local TTF arrangements also slices the economic opportunities available to many airports through aviation-related growth, not to mention the freedom to use the aviation infrastructure created for all pilots. In addition, blocking such arrangements may allow non-aviation developments to encroach on local airports. Such developments often lead to calls for airport closures or create land-use and noise disputes.

In late September, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves (R-Missouri), a longtime pilot and EAA member, and Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin), who represents the Oshkosh area, scheduled a public hearing before the House Transportation Subcommittee. Rep. Graves directly told the FAA that a one-size-fits-all approach to local airport issues is not the way to go.

In addition, EAA member Dr. Brent Blue, a longtime member of EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, testified how his Wyoming airport benefits from these arrangements and how aviation access would be crippled by the FAA’s new policy. EAA fortified his testimony with written comments included in the hearing’s record. For a link to EAA’s comments, visit SportAviation.org.

Banning all future TTF arrangements makes as much sense as shutting off local streets from access to highways. EAA designed a plan that would allow local control of TTF access but still makes these significant aviation opportunities possible.

It’s always less work to issue a blanket “no” rather than work to find solutions. But, finding solutions is always EAA’s goal. After hearing the same thing from EAA members and Congress, it should be the FAA’s goal as well.

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