Update Your Airport's Hangar Leases to Protect Against Non-Aeronautical Uses and Preserve AIP Funding

Under federal law, airport operators that have accepted federal grants or have obligations contained in property deeds for property transferred under laws such as the Surplus Property Act generally may use airport property only for aviation-related purposes unless otherwise approved by the FAA.  Specifically, the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 (AAIA) (Pub. L. 97–248), as amended and recodified at 49 United States Codes (U.S.C.) 47107(a)(1), and the contractual sponsor assurances require that the airport sponsor make the airport available for aviation use.  Grant Assurance 22, Economic Nondiscrimination, requires the sponsor to make the airport available on reasonable terms without unjust discrimination for aeronautical activities, including aviation services.  Grant Assurance 19, Operation and Maintenance, prohibits an airport sponsor from causing or permitting any activity that would interfere with use of airport property for airport purposes.  In some cases, sponsors who have received property transfers through surplus property and nonsurplus property agreements have similar federal obligations.

With increasing frequency, airports are allowing non-aeronautical storage or uses in hangars intended for aeronautical use, which the FAA has found to interfere with or entirely displace aeronautical use of the hangar.  Case in point: Car and Driver has recently featured articles about the superiority of airport hangars as “garages” for serious car enthusiasts.  This should be a red flag for airports, which stand to lose significant AIP funds for allowing on-airport hangars to lapse into non-aeronautical use.
 
There is only one solution to this problem, and it is something every federally-obligated airport should do to protect its AIP funds…
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City of Santa Monica on Track for Confrontation with Federal Aviation Administration

Predictably, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has weighed in strongly in opposition to the City of Santa Monica’s (“City”) plan to close the Santa Monica Airport (“Airport”) within the next two years.  The City, owner and operator of the Airport, plans to begin the process of closure, including cancellation and/or modification of leases held by various aeronautical service providers, such as providers of fuel, maintenance and hangar storage.  Those Airport incumbents are already paying rent on a month-to-month basis, subject to summary eviction. 

 

The apparent basis of Santa Monica’s position is that: (1) its obligation to maintain the airport is based solely on the terms of its contract with FAA for the provision of funding; and (2) according to its terms, that contract expires 20 years after the FAA’s last grant of funding.
 
The FAA’s position, obviously, differs dramatically.  The agency claims that, according to the terms of a $240,000 federal grant to the City in 2003, the City is obligated to keep the Airport open until at least 2023, see, e.g., FAA Order 5190.6B, Chapter 4, §§ 4.6.h(1) and (2).  Moreover, the FAA asserts that, under the terms of the transfer agreement governing the transfer of the airport property from the military back to the City after World War II, the City is obligated to keep the Airport open in perpetuity.
 
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New Airport Legislation Targets TSA Wait Times by Redirecting $15.8 Billion and Increasing Efficiency Measures

Airports and airlines across the nation last week welcomed the introduction of two bills aimed at alleviating mounting congestion in airport security lines by increasing TSA efficiency and reallocating billions of dollars in security fees paid by passengers.
 
The FASTER Act (H.R. 5340) is aimed at ensuring passenger security fees are used for aviation security, according to a statement released last week by Rep. Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  Since 2013, the federal government has diverted billions in funds collected from the 9/11 Passenger Security Fee away from aviation and into general government spending.  “At airports across the country, people are forced to wait in long security lines like cattle, causing many to miss their flight,” said DeFazio.  “To add insult to injury, funding to help fix the wait times exists – it’s just being diverted. I doubt most passengers know that a portion of the security fee they pay with every flight is being used for other purposes.  With peak travel season starting this weekend, Congress needs to direct all of the designated funds towards the intended purpose in order to improve the efficiency of airport screening and keep passengers safe.”
 
A second piece of legislation, introduced last week by Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security Chairman John Katki (R-NY), named the bipartisan Optimization and Efficiency Act of 2016, is aimed at reducing long airport security lines by efficiently reallocating TSA staffing and resources.  “Travelers are frustrated with TSA’s bureaucracy – facing longer lines, and in some cases, missing flights and having to return home or stay overnight in the airport,” said Representative Katko in a statement.  “This is a crisis that must be addressed before we head into the busy summer months of travel.  Today, I’ve introduced legislation which takes the first step in requiring greater coordination between the TSA and local airports so that we can relieve congestion and ensure that travelers are able to make it to their destinations on schedule.”
 
The new bills were introduced amidst a flurry of requests last week by Homeland Security seeking Congressional reallocation of over $60 million to TSA for the expedited hiring of screeners and overtime pay for current security staff.
 
Though these new measures were received with applause by the vast majority of the aviation industry, it remains to be seen whether the effects of additional funding and increased efficiency will be realized in time for the fast-approaching summer travel season.

City of Burbank Attempts to Strike Deal with FAA for Curfew at Burbank Airport

In what looks like a swap of increased capacity for reduced hours of operation, brokered by Representative Adam Schiff, the City of Burbank has offered the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) a 14 gate replacement terminal at Bob Hope Airport (“Airport”) in return for which the FAA is being asked to approve a mandatory nighttime curfew from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.  

What makes this potential deal especially unusual is that in the years since the passage of the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, 49 U.S.C. §§ 47521-47534 (“ANCA”), the FAA has never agreed to the enactment of a limitation on hours of operation at any airport.  It is true that some airports which had preexisting limitations on hours of operation, such as John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, were allowed to retain those limitations as exceptions to the constraints of ANCA.  See 49 U.S.C. § 47524(d).  However, as recently as 2009, the FAA maintained its standard position that a mandatory curfew was not reasonable and would “create an undue burden on interstate commerce.”  However, under ANCA, § 47524(c), the FAA has the power to approve a restriction that might otherwise be regarded as violative of the Airport’s contractual obligations to the FAA.  See, e.g., City of Naples Airport Authority v. FAA, 409 F.3d 431 (2005).  Thus, given the quid pro quo of a new 14 gate passenger terminal to enhance passenger access as well aircraft mobility; and the already existing voluntary curfew of the same scope; it is not inconceivable that the FAA may take the hitherto unprecedented step of allowing a mandatory curfew, where none had previously been permitted.  
 
This negotiated outcome would sidestep the failure of Congressman’s Schiff’s efforts to enact a curfew at the federal level which effort made it to the floor of the House of Representatives in 2014 only to be rejected by a margin of four votes.  In the final analysis, the FAA’s willingness even to discuss a curfew may signal a reversal in attitude which could serve the interests of airport impacted communities throughout the nation. 

Los Angeles City Council at Long Last Agrees to Transfer Ontario International Airport to the City of Ontario and Ontario International Airport Authority

In an anticipated, but no less surprising move, the City Council of the City of Los Angeles (“Los Angeles”) agreed to transfer Ontario International Airport (“ONT”), currently owned and operated by Los Angeles, to the Ontario International Airport Authority (“OIAA”) and its members which include the City of Ontario (“Ontario”).  The transfer occurs in settlement of a currently pending lawsuit in the Riverside County Superior Court in which Ontario, the OIAA, and other parties challenged the legal right of Los Angeles to ownership and operation of ONT.  

 
The major provisions of the Settlement Agreement include the following:
 
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Town of East Hampton Explores Limits of Aircraft Noise Regulation

In an unprecedented action aimed at limiting or eliminating noisy helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from use of the East Hampton Airport, in East Hampton, Long Island, New York (“Airport”), on April 6, 2015, the East Hampton Town Board, operator of the airport, imposed strict noise limits, including a curfew, on the hitherto largely unregulated Airport.  The greatest source of the problem that has generated a flood of local noise complaints appears to be the increasing helicopter traffic that ferries well-to-do city dwellers and LaGuardia and Kennedy passengers who live on Long Island to the beach community.  The noise has apparently increased with the imposition of a new rule by the FAA requiring helicopters to fly off the North Shore of Long Island, and cross Long Island at, and into, East Hampton on the South Shore.  The proposed regulatory protocol is dramatic.  

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Land Trade and Airport Expansion Expected to Put Mammoth Mountain on "Must Ski" Map

Usually regarded as a local ski area for ski buffs in Northern and Southern California, to which it is readily accessible by car, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (“MMSA”) is preparing to come into the 21st Century with a new lodge, updated lifts, and, perhaps most important to proponents of the development, an expanded airport.  The expected transformation will be accomplished by the December 12, 2014 passage of the National Defense Authorization Act to which was attached an amendment specifically targeted at the MMSA.  The amendment provides for a land trade of over 1,500 acres of public and private property in proximate counties, for approximately 21 acres of United States Forest Service (“USFS”) land surrounding Mammoth Mountain Inn, which is currently leasing that property as the center of ski operations of the MMSA.  In addition, the Bill allows for a “cash equalization option” to facilitate the exchange, by which MMSA can make up any deficiency in the value of the property conveyed to the USFS with a cash equivalent.  
 
Most important in MMSA’s view is the expansion of the airport.  
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East Hampton Airport Still Subject to FAA Oversight of Noise Restrictions Despite Absence of FAA Funding Constraints

An article of December 23, 2014 in a local East Hampton, New York newspaper, now circulated to a wider audience throughout the nation, gives the impression that, upon expiration of its contractual relationship on January 1, 2015, “East Hampton Town will be free of Federal Aviation Administration oversight and able to set access restrictions at the East Hampton Airport, essentially opening the door for relief from often loud, and sometimes rattling, aircraft noise.”  The article apparently misapprehends, and consequently, vastly overstates the impact of the expiration of the town’s contractual commitments to FAA, in return for funding of airport improvements.  The fact is that, with or without the constraints of such contractual commitments or “grant assurances,” the application of noise and access restrictions will depend entirely upon FAA’s determination concerning the applicability of a parallel set of constraints set forth in the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, 49 U.S.C. § 47521, et seq. (“ANCA”), which, in turn, will depend on the noise levels of the specific types of aircraft the airport wishes to control or eliminate.  

The newspaper article errs in at least two ways.
 
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Bonner County Wins Major Victory in Property Owner's "Takings" Lawsuit

The decision of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Idaho in SilverWing at Sandpoint, LLC v. Bonner County, a case that has been “hanging fire” for almost two years, was worth the wait.  On Friday, November 21, 2014, the Court granted Defendant Bonner County (“Bonner County”) summary judgment on all Plaintiff SilverWing at Sandpoint, LLC’s (“SilverWing”) federal claims for inverse condemnation, or “taking,” of private property by a public entity without just compensation, in violation of the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, or violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional or other federal rights by a person acting under color of state law.  See, e.g., Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).  In addition, the Court granted summary judgment on SilverWing’s state law contract claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.   

In this case, SilverWing claimed that Bonner County had taken its property by implementing a plan for the airport, an Airport Layout Plan (“ALP”) approved in accordance with the regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), that showed the single runway at Sandpoint Airport moving 60 feet to the west, toward SilverWing’s property.  SilverWing argued that forcing the movement of a taxiway that already been constructed to service the “hangar homes” in the development, and thus causing it to incur upon the five lots closest to the runway, making them unbuildable, caused a loss to SilverWing of $26 million.  The Court ruled that implementation of the requirements of the ALP was a federal requirement arising out of federal responsibility for aviation safety and not within the discretion of Bonner County.  
 
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FAA Loosens Regulation of Taxes on Aviation Fuel

On November 7, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) published its “Final Policy Amendment” (“Amendment”) to its “Policy and Procedures Concerning the Use of Airport Revenue,” first published 15 years ago in the Federal Register at 64 Fed.Reg. 7696, February 16, 1999 (“Revenue Use Policy”).  The Amendment formally adopts FAA’s interpretation of the Federal requirements for use of revenue derived from taxes including sales taxes on aviation fuel imposed by both airport sponsors and governmental agencies, local and State, that are non-airport operators. 

In brief, the FAA concludes that “an airport operator or State government submitting an application under the Airport Improvement Program must provide assurance that revenues from State and local government taxes on aviation fuel will be used for certain aviation-related purposes.”  79 Fed.Reg. 66283.  Predictably, FAA received 25 substantive comments from a diverse group of interested parties, including airport operators, industry and nonprofit associations representing airports, air carriers, business aviation and airport service businesses, air carriers, state government agencies, and private citizens.  For example, in response to the airports’ and governments’ comments that airport sponsors would find it impossible to provide assurance that other governmental agencies would comply with the revenue use statutes for the life of the Airport Improvement Program (“AIP”) grant, and that airports should not be required to agree to a condition compliance with which they have no control, FAA takes the position that Federal statute 49 U.S.C. §§ 47107(b) and 47133 already require this level of control from local proprietors.  This is because “[t]he grant assurances provided by airport sponsors include Grant Assurance 25, which provides, in relevant part: ‘All revenues generated by the airport and any local taxes on aviation fuel established after December 30, 1987, will be expended by it for the capital or operating costs of the airport; the local airport system; or other facilities which are owned and operated by the owner and operator of the airport. . .’” 79 Fed.Reg. 66284.  The FAA further concludes that airport sponsors often have influence on the taxation of aviation activities in their States and localities, and the FAA expects airport sponsors to use that influence to shape State and non-sponsor local taxation to conform to these Federal laws.  Id.  Moreover, FAA asserts its power to pursue enforcement action against non-sponsor entities for the purposes of limiting the use of aviation tax revenues under 49 U.S.C. §§ 46301, 47133 and 47111(f). 
 
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FAA Seeks Input from Governmental Entities Concerning Revised Air Traffic Routes Over Southern California

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has scheduled six “briefings” with governmental jurisdictions potentially impacted by the planned “Southern California Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex (SoCal OAPM)” (“Project”).  The Project is expected to involve changes in aircraft flight paths and/or altitudes in areas surrounding Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport (BUR), Camarillo Airport (CMA), Gillespie Field (SEE), McClellan-Palomar Airport (Carlsbad) (CRQ), Montgomery Field (MYF), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Long Beach Airport (LGB), Point Magu Naval Air Station (NTD), North Island Naval Air Station (NZY), Ontario International Airport (ONT), Oxnard Airport (OXR), Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), San Diego International Airport (SAN), Santa Barbara Municipal Airport (SBA), Brown Field Municipal Airport (SDM), Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), John Wayne-Orange County Airport (SNA), Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (TRM), Bermuda Dunes (UDD), Miramar Marine Corps Air Station (NKX) and Van Nuys Airport (VNY).   
 
These meetings are targeted at “key governmental officials/agencies” for the purpose of soliciting their views on the Environmental Assessment being prepared for the Project pursuant to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321.  The meetings will not be open to the public, although public meetings will be scheduled as well.  
 
It is important to note the regional scope of the planned airspace changes, and that they may redistribute noise, air quality, and other impacts over affected communities, thus implicating new populations, and simultaneously raising citizen ire in newly impacted communities.  It is therefore doubly important that governmental entities participate at the initiation of the process to ensure protection at its culmination.  
 
The governmental meetings are planned for the following locations and times:
 
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One Community Gets Relief from Aircraft Noise

In a rare showing of unanimity between airport operator and noise impacted community, on September 30, 2014 the Board of Supervisors of Orange County, California (“Board”) approved the extension, for an additional 15 years, of a long-standing set of noise restrictions on the operation of John Wayne Airport (“Airport”), of which the Board is also the operator.  Those restrictions include: (1) limitation on the number of the noisiest aircraft that can operate at the Airport; (2) limitation on the number of passengers that can use the Airport annually; (3) limitation on the number of aircraft loading bridges; and, perhaps most important, (4) limitation on the hours of aircraft operation (10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. on weekdays and 8:00 a.m. on Sundays).   

The restrictions were originally imposed in settlement of a lawsuit in 1986, between the Board, the neighboring City of Newport Beach and two environmental organizations, the Airport Working Group of Orange County, Inc. and Stop Polluting Our Newport.  The obvious question is whether similar restrictions might be achieved at other airports today. The not so obvious answer is that such a resolution is far more difficult now, but not impossible.
 
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Santa Monica Airport Commission's Proposal to Limit Aircraft Access by Limiting Emissions is Foreclosed by Federal Law

The Santa Monica Airport Commission has recently made a proposal to limit access of certain aircraft to Santa Monica Airport by limiting emissions allowable from those aircraft.  The proposal may be public spirited in its intent, but shocking in its naiveté with respect to the preemptive authority of federal law and specifically the federal authority over emissions from aircraft engines. 

The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is granted by Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the creation and enforcement of regulations governing emissions from aircraft engines.  “The Administrator shall, from time to time, issue proposed emission standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of aircraft engines which in his judgment causes, or contributes to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.”  42 U.S.C. § 7571(a)(2)(A) and (a)(3).  There are, however, some limits on EPA’s authority.
 

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Sustainable Airport Policies for Car Sharing and Ride Sharing Companies

“Disruption” has become the buzzword of the decade for technology startups.  Entrepreneurs take aim at existing markets every day with ideas designed to uproot and redefine their industries.  But some of the most innovative disrupters are having trouble bringing their ideas to a place where disruption is generally unwelcome: the airport.

Car sharing services such as Zipcar, Car2Go, and Getaround and ride sharing services such as UberX, Lyft, and Zimride are changing the game in ground transportation.  By using smartphone apps to connect drivers who have open seats in their vehicles with passengers who need rides, the ride sharing movement is reducing traffic and fuel usage.  Similarly, by planting a network of available cars throughout a city and allowing consumers to access the vehicles for a fee, car sharing makes it more practical for consumers to forego vehicle ownership altogether.  In 2014 alone, these companies have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital financing.  Many consumers prefer these services to taxi cabs or other traditional methods of ground transportation because they are more convenient, affordable, and in some cases more environmentally friendly.  As with taxi cabs, airports are natural hubs of activity for car sharing and ride sharing services.

Notwithstanding the rising tidal wave of demand, most airports have yet to develop a workable approach to the unique legal and logistical challenges presented by car sharing and ride sharing services.  Instead, airports are prohibiting these companies from picking up or dropping off passengers at their terminals.  At a recent conference of in-house airport lawyers, several representatives from some of North America’s largest aviation hubs expressed serious concerns about these services.  One attendee suggested setting up “stings” by using the popular ride sharing apps to order rides from the airport and arresting the drivers for lack of taxi cab certification when they arrive.

However, non-airport regulators are beginning to appreciate that ride sharing services are not cab companies and should not be subject to the same regulations.  In September of 2013, California became the first state to provide a regulatory framework for Transportation Network Companies (“TNCs”), defined by the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) as any organization that “provides prearranged transportation services for compensation using an online-enabled application (app) or platform to connect passengers with drivers using their personal vehicles.”  (See CPUC Decision 13-09-045.)  The Illinois House of Representatives followed suit last week when it passed HB 4075, which seeks to implement a set of regulations specific to ride sharing services.

With mounting political and consumer support for car sharing and ride sharing, airports are under increased pressure to adopt policies regulating these services instead of prohibiting them.  Developing practical, sustainable policies that address issues such as airport congestion, service monitoring, and revenue sharing may prove to be a more profitable and efficient solution than denying airport access to car sharing and ride sharing companies.
 

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Judge Blocks City of Santa Monica's Latest Effort to Close the Santa Monica Airport

Predictably, Judge John Walter of the Los Angeles Federal District Court summarily dismissed a lawsuit brought by the City of Santa Monica (“Santa Monica”) aimed at closing the Santa Monica Airport, based on, among other things, unconstitutional taking of property without just compensation.  The court’s decision was made on the procedural grounds that, among other things, the lawsuit was brought too late and in the wrong court.

First, the court found that Santa Monica had brought the suit after the applicable 12 year statute of limitations had expired.  28 U.S.C. § 2409(a)(g).  The court’s rationale was that Santa Monica knew as long ago as 1948 that the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) had a residual claim to the property arising from the Deed of Transfer of the federal government’s lease back to the City of Santa Monica.  That residual claim, therefore, required that Santa Monica’s suit be brought no later than the early 1960s. 

In addition, the court found that, even if a claim for unconstitutional taking could be sustained under the applicable statute of limitations, it was improperly brought in the District Court, as the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1) vests exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over monetary claims against the federal government exceeding $10,000 with the Court of Federal Claims.  Santa Monica does not, of course, dispute that the value of the airport property that it wishes to recover and use for other purposes exceeds $10,000. 

Although the court chose the procedural route in making its decision, there appear to be relevant substantive grounds as well.
 

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El Paso County Seeks Control Over Colorado Springs Airport

In an exercise of regulatory zeal, El Paso County, Colorado (“County”) now requires that City owned Colorado Springs Airport (“Airport”) obtain a permit from the County for any changes in airport physical development or operations that might affect nearby property located in the County. 

Purportedly under the authority of the Colorado Areas and Activities of State Interest Act, § 24-65-101, et seq., the Board of County Commissioners (“Board”) “has specific authority to consider and designate matters of state interest . . . and to adopt guidelines and regulations for administration of areas and activities of state interest. . .”  Pursuant to that purported authority, by Resolution No. 13-267, June 6, 2013, and recorded at Reception No. 213077196 of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, “the Board designated certain areas and activities of state interest” and established “a permit process for development in certain areas of state interest,” Resolution No. 13-530, Resolution Amending Guidelines and Regulations for Areas and Activities of State Interest of El Paso County, and designating additional matters of state interest.  December 17, 2013.  The new areas of state interest designated in the Resolution include: “site selection and expansion of airports,” Resolution, p. 3, § 1.  The County has interpreted the permit process to extend to “runway extension, noise and other impacts that might affect property owners . . .,” Gazette, January 17, 2014, quoting Mark Gebhart, Deputy Director of County Development Services Department. 

Therein lies the rub. 
 

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Reliever Airports Face Increasing and Competitive Woes

Reliever airports, once touted as the solution to major metropolitan airport congestion and its environmental impacts on surrounding communities are now facing daunting financial and competitive challenges from the very same airports they were supposed to relieve.

Reliever airports, defined as “general aviation airports in major metropolitan areas that provide pilots with attractive alternatives to using congested hub airports,” Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) Advisory Circular 150/5070-6B, Appendix A, Glossary, were typically developed to occupy a market niche in their local regions.  For years, they succeeded in their task.  Since 2009, however, reliever airports throughout the country have lost substantial proportions of their passengers to the major urban airports.  In Southern California alone, reliever airports such as Ontario International Airport (“ONT”) and Long Beach Airport (“LGB”) have seen massive reductions in their passenger counts.  Now these airports are forced to take drastic steps to remain viable. 
 

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Santa Monica Sues for Closure of Airport

The internet has been abuzz lately with talk about the latest legal action filed by the City of Santa Monica (“City”) against the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), on October 31, 2013, seeking to avoid FAA’s refusal to allow the closure of Santa Monica Airport, see City of Santa Monica v. United States of America, et al., U.S.D.C. Case No. CV13-08046, an active general aviation airport surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

More specifically, the suit seeks to: (1) quiet title to the real property upon which the airport is now located, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2409a, as having been owned in fee simple by the City since approximately 1926; (2) obtain a judicial declaration that any attempt by FAA to prevent closure interferes with the City’s constitutional obligations to protect the public health, safety and welfare and, thus, constitutes a “taking” without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The City bases this claim on its ownership of the airport property in fee simple, and any constraint on closure is “constructive confiscation of airport property, and, thus, a violation of the prohibition on takings with just compensation in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution;” (3) establish violation of the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution brought about by FAA’s stepping outside the rights given to the federal government under Constitution, and incurring on the powers of protection of the public health, safety and welfare left to the states; and (4) establish violation of the Due Process Clause in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution arising from FAA’s contravention of its own regulatory guidance, which limits FAA’s power to restrict closure to those instances where FAA owned the property upon which the airport to be closed is located. 

Leaving aside: (1) the difficulty of maintaining a case for inverse condemnation, or “taking” by one public entity against another where the express language of the Fifth Amendment provides that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use without just compensation,” see, e.g., Complaint, ¶ 106 [emphasis added]; and (2) the hurdle of obtaining declaratory and injunctive relief as a remedy for unconstitutional taking, where the law is clear that monetary damages are the exclusive remedy, there are several attributes that make this case unique, and, thus, not a precedent for action by others seeking to close airports. 
 

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Local Governments Throughout Southern California File Challenge to LAX Expansion Project

The Cities of Inglewood, Culver City and Ontario, California and the County of San Bernardino (“Cities/County”) joined together yesterday, May 30, 2013, to file a challenge to the recently approved Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) Specific Plan Amendment Study (“SPAS”) expansion project.  The project includes: the further separation of runways on the North Airfield to allow access by A380s, B787s and other New Large Aircraft (“NLA”), as well as simultaneous approaches by other kinds of smaller, but no less impactful aircraft; addition of a new terminal; and a new off-airport transit center and people mover.

Cities/County’s action involves a challenge to the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the project, on the grounds that, among other things, the EIR fails to adequately disclose the project’s admittedly significant air quality, aircraft noise and surface traffic impacts, or to provide adequate mitigation for those impacts, including a coherent plan to disperse air traffic demand to other regional airports, such as Ontario International Airport, now operating at only 30% of its optimal capacity.  A copy of Cities/County’s Petition for Writ of Mandate may be obtained by clicking here.

Similar lawsuits were also filed by the SEIU United Service Workers West, a Union representing LAX service workers and Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (“ARSAC”), representing residents of communities in Westchester and Playa del Rey immediately to the north of the airport.
 

Surrounding Communities Object to Approval of the Los Angeles International Airport Specific Plan Amendment Study Project

On March 27, 2013, the Los Angeles County Airport Land Use Commission (“ALUC”) gave the latest in a series of approvals including those from Los Angeles Board of Airport of Commissioners (“BOAC”) and Los Angeles City Planning Commission, of the proposed Los Angeles International Airport Specific Plan Amendment Study Project (“Project”).  The Project includes construction of a new terminal, addition of runway safety lighting, and, its centerpiece, the reconfiguration of the North Runway Complex with movement of runway 6L/24R 260 feet north. 

Most notably, the Project will impose dramatic impacts on surrounding communities, including significant new noise impacts on over 14,000 people, 12,000 in the City of Inglewood alone.  Moreover, the Project adversely impacts the goal of regionalization which is a centerpiece of the Stipulated Settlement signed by the Petitioners in City of El Segundo, et al. v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Riverside County Superior Court Case No. RIC426822.  A principal goal of that settlement was, and remains, diversion of air traffic to other airports in the region, not the encouragement of access to LAX. 
 

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Cities Challenge Federal Aviation Administration Environmental Assessment for Conversion of Paine/Boeing Field to Commercial Airport

On January 31, 2013, the Cities of Mukilteo and Edmonds, Washington, and concerned citizens and organizations in the vicinity of Paine/Boeing Field, Everett, Washington (“Petitioners”) filed a “Petition for Review of Agency Order,” challenging the adequacy of the Environmental Assessment (“EA”) for the conversion of Paine Field from a proprietary facility to a commercial airport. 

Petitioners’ challenge centers around the limited analysis contained in the EA.  While the projects defined in the EA include the grant of Part 139 Operating Certificates for the airport and two airlines, Horizon and Allegiant, as well as the physical construction of various improvements to the terminal and other facilities, admittedly allowing virtually unlimited commercial aircraft operations, the analysis in the EA is limited to only the first phase of the ultimate project.  It describes the environmental impacts of only a 22,000 square foot addition to the existing terminal, and the projected immediate operations of only the two named airlines, while it also acknowledges that, once a Part 139 Operating Certificate is issued for an airport, the law does not allow any limitation on access by any airline that desires such access.  See, e.g., 49 U.S.C. § 47521, et seq., (“Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990”).

Petitioners are represented by Buchalter Nemer, a firm with extensive experience in the fields of airport law, and environmental and land use law related to airport development.
 

Santa Monica Airport Commission Needs to Look Harder at Federal Law in Proposing Aircraft Access Restrictions

While its zeal to protect its citizens from the noise and emissions of aircraft arriving and departing Santa Monica Airport is commendable and understandable, the Santa Monica Airport Commission’s method is questionable.  That is because its recently proposed proportional limitation on aircraft operations (i.e., a limit on future operations at some percent of current operations) appears to be contrary to Federal law.

More specifically, in a Memorandum of on or about August 2, 2012, the Airport Commission proposed a hypothetical restriction whereby “the number of daily operations would be limited to [approximately] 53% of the daily operations from prior years . . . For example, if there were 100 operations on June 6, 2012, then no more than 53 operations would be allowed on June 6, 2013.”  The Vice Chairman of the Airport Commission argues that, because the proposed restriction does not discriminate between aircraft types (as a prior proposed Santa Monica ordinance limiting operations by jet aircraft did), it would withstand judicial scrutiny.  The Commission has apparently forgotten about the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, 49 U.S.C. § 47521, et seq., (“ANCA”), and its prohibition on the imposition of noise or access restrictions without approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). 
 

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Draft Environmental Impact Report for Los Angeles International Airport Airfield Project Released

On July 27, 2012, Los Angeles World Airports (“LAWA”) released the “Specific Plan Amendment Study Draft Environmental Impact Report” (“DEIR”), involving, among other things: (1) a realignment and extension of runways to the east on the North Airfield Complex, including a separation of the two north runways to permit their unimpeded use by the largest operating aircraft, A-380s and 747-800s (“Category VI”); (2) expansion and renovation of the terminals; and (3) associated movement and potential undergrounding of surrounding thoroughfares including Lincoln Boulevard.  Sides are already forming over the proposed plan. 

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Make No Mistake: The Supreme Court's Decision on Obamacare Has No Impact on Applicable Aviation and Airport Law

It has come to our attention that a legal colleague has authored a blog analogizing the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the Obama Administration’s health care legislation (“Obamacare”), National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Sebelius, et al., 567 U.S. ___ (2012), to the Federal statutes preempting state and local control of the regulation of aircraft operations and their free and open access to airports.  The blog attempts to make the case that, because the Court ruled that the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution does not justify requiring all uninsured Americans to purchase health insurance, so the Commerce Clause somehow cannot justify exclusive Federal regulation of the “safety of navigable airspace,” 49 U.S.C. § 40103(a), and airlines “rates, routes and charges,” 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1).  This analysis not only manifestly misapprehends the clear distinction between the two cases, but can also send a damaging message to those who justifiably seek legally supportable means of controlling airport impacts. 

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The Unmaking of the Great Park

A lesson for all those who oppose the development of airports – be careful what you ask for, you might get it.  Ten years ago the City of Irvine, California, won its epic battle over the conversion of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station (“El Toro”) to a new commercial airport for Orange County, California.  The site is more than 3,000 acres in size, and was, at the time, surrounded by a 14,000 acre “no development” buffer zone, that the military had maintained to insulate itself from liability for noise and other impacts from aircraft operations at El Toro. 

Despite the largest land use buffer around any airport in the nation, and the fact that the noisiest military aircraft then in existence, the F-14, F-16 and F-18 fighter jets, had been operating regularly and continuously out of El Toro for more than 50 years, when El Toro was marked for closure under the Base Reuse and Realignment Act, 10 U.S.C. § 2687, et seq., (“BRAC”), and conveyed to Orange County through a public benefit conveyance, a number of cities in South Orange County, including Irvine and Laguna Niguel, banded together to stop the conversion.  Their alternative was a 3,600 acre “Great Park” on the El Toro site, to include sports facilities, entertainment venues, and wildlife preservation areas, and limited commercial and residential development on the periphery. 

It was a very convincing story, and, ultimately, in 2003, after 10 years of political and legal battles and the expenditure of many millions of dollars on both sides, the effort prevailed in the passage of an Initiative, Measure W.  The Initiative transferred land use planning authority from Orange County to the City of Irvine, for the purpose of developing the “Great Park.”  The only problem is, another 10 years and mega-millions of dollars later, the Great Park remains an empty field hosting an occasional tent show or fair, and is on the verge of becoming what its skeptics expected all along.
 

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Federal Aviation Administration Aims at Simplifying Its Airport Design Standards

On Monday, May 7, 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) issued a revision to Advisory Circular 150/5300-13A which provides standards and recommendations for airport design.  While Advisory Circulars are typically considered non-regulatory, and, thus, merely “advisory,” use of the Advisory Circulars is mandatory on all projects funded by the FAA under the Federal Airport Improvement Program. 

The principal changes include: (1) a new introduction of the Runway Reference Code and Runway Design Code; (2) an expanded discussion on “declared distances;” (3) a clarified discussion on the Runway Protection Zone; (4) the introduction of a Taxiway Design Group concept; (5) the establishment of more specific guidelines for the separation between non-intersecting runways and intersecting runways; (6) the inclusion of runway incursion prevention geometry for taxiway to taxiway intersections and taxiway to runway interface; and (7) the consolidation of numerous design tables into one Runway Design Standards Matrix, Table 3-5. 

Comments must be received on or before July 6, 2012 by either hand delivery to Federal Aviation Administration, 800 Independence Avenue S.W., AAS-100, Room 621, Washington, DC  20590, or by fax to (202)267-3688.
 

The FAA Proposes Changes to its Funding Contracts with Airports

On April 13, 2012, as a result of the February 14, 2012 passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (“FMRA”), the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) proposed modifications to the “grant assurances” incorporated into FAA’s contracts with airports that receive FAA funding for physical improvements and/or noise compatibility purposes.  These changes were made in order to ensure the consistency of the grant contracts with the changes arising out of FMRA.  The revisions primarily address three categories of actions: (1) permission for “through the fence” operations under specified conditions; (2) exceptions to current restrictions on use of airport revenues; and (3) revision to rules governing use of revenues gained from disposal of airport property subsidized by FAA. 

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A California Appellate Court Puts a Fence Around Federal Preemption of Airport Safety Standards

On March 20, 2012, in a far reaching opinion, the California Appellate Court for the Second District incurred into the territory usually occupied by the Federal Courts of Appeals, by holding that Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) safety standards, published in FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-13 (“Advisory Circular”) do not preempt state tort law on the standard of care applicable to utilization of an airport’s “Runway Protection Zone” (“RPZ”). 

The case, Sierra Pacific Holdings, Inc. v. County of Ventura, 2012 WL 920322 (Cal.App.2 Dist.)), concerns damage to an aircraft owned by Sierra Pacific Holdings, Inc. (“Sierra”), allegedly caused by a barrier erected within the RPZ at Camarillo Municipal Airport.  The airport, owned and operated by Ventura County (“County”), erected the barrier for the apparent purpose of preventing runway incursions by police vehicles leasing space in part of the RPZ at the airport.  The trial court upheld the County’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of state safety standards relating to “airport design and construction,” on the ground that Federal standards in the Advisory Circular preempt state tort law on the standard of care.  The trial court’s holding was based on the Federal government’s “implied preemption” of safety standards at airports, and, thus, the foreclosure of Sierra’s negligence action based on a dangerous condition of public property under state tort law.  Cal. Gov. Code § 835.  The Appellate Court reversed on the ground that “Congress has not enacted an express preemption provision for FAA safety standards” and, thus, if preemption exists, it must be implied.  The Appellate Court’s decision is flawed for at least two reasons. 
 

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Operators Seeking to Close Airports Navigate Difficult Regulatory Shoals

The permanent closure or “deactivation” of an underutilized public use airport has gained increasing traction among revenue starved airport sponsors, as well as disparate responses from affected parties.  Operators seek to save the drain on diminishing budgets; residential communities surrounding the airport hope for relief from the airport’s impacts; and the pilot community sees its access to the dwindling number of general aviation facilities shrinking further.  Whatever the rationale, the operator seeking to close and reuse an airport for non-aviation purposes, that has at any time accepted funds from the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), faces substantial regulatory hurdles and complex procedural requirements.

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SCAG's Regional Transportation Plan Falls Down Hard on Aviation Policy

The recently published Southern California Association of Governments (“SCAG”) Draft Regional Transportation Plan 2012-2035, Sustainable Communities Strategy (“Draft RTP”) is a study in contrasts. The Draft RTP is meant to be a roadmap to “increasing mobility for the region’s residents and visitors.” Draft RTP, p. 1. Its “vision” purportedly “encompasses three principles that collectively work as the key to our region’s future: mobility, economy and sustainability.” Draft RTP, p. 1. SCAG’s jurisdiction falls largely into compartments: (1) surface transportation such as roadways and rail; and (2) aviation. SCAG has funding authority over the former, but none over the latter.

The purpose of the Draft RTP is to portray transportation from a broader regional, rather than merely local, perspective. On the one hand, the Draft RTP’s analysis of surface transportation growth estimates, trends and proposed policies for the Southern California Region to the year 2035 contains relatively sophisticated and substantially complete analysis and projections that meet its goals. On the other hand, the Draft RTP’s analysis of aviation trends and policies for meeting airport demand is reminiscent of a high school science project.
 

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LAX Grows Like "Topsy" While Ontario Starves

An interesting dichotomy was observable in recent news coverage of the utilization of the two major airports owned and operated by the City of Los Angeles. On the one hand, in a recent story, the Los Angeles Times reported that the City of Los Angeles’ Board of Airport Commissioners, the administrative agency charged with overseeing the operation of the City’s airports, is considering closing one of the two terminals at Ontario International Airport (located in the City of Ontario, but operated by Los Angeles World Airports (“LAWA”)). The stated reason was that Ontario has lost one-third of its peak 7.2 million passengers from 2007 to 2010, putting Ontario “on track to have as many passengers as it saw in 1987.” On the other hand, a story in the Los Angeles Business Journal touts passenger increases at LAX of between 3% and 10% over the period April through October, 2011. What the latter story does not do is venture an analysis of the potential causes of this enormous disparity.

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California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, October 2011, Hits the Streets

The California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, October 2011 (“2011 Handbook”) was released this week. It supersedes the 2002 Handbook edition. The Handbook constitutes “guidance,” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21674.7, for Airport Land Use Commissions (“ALUCs”) in the determination of the scope of their jurisdiction over off-airport land uses as well as in the formulation of noise, overflight, safety and airspace protection policies, as mandated by Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21670, et seq.

It is important to note at the outset, however, what a Handbook cannot do. First, it cannot grant to ALUCs the power to regulate airports, either in the air or on the ground. Those powers lie exclusively with the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and the local airport proprietor. Second, it cannot grant to ALUCs the final decision making power over off-airport land uses either. That power lies exclusively with local land use jurisdictions. What the Handbook can do is provide guidelines for the formulation of policies that bring to the attention of local land use policy makers the importance of “ensuring compatible land uses in the vicinity of . . . all new airport and in the vicinity of existing airports to the extent that the land in the vicinity of those airports is not already devoted to incompatible uses.” Cal. Pub. Util. Code § 21674(a).

As the 2011 Handbook’s girth exceeds 400 pages, and was issued only this week, the specific ways in which the 2011 Handbook addresses that charge will be the subject of a blog to appear shortly.
 

A New Technological Fix Hopes to Make Airport Noise a "Whisper"

Noise abatement procedures are only effective if they are used. Noise impacted communities are frequently heard to complain that, despite the complex, time consuming and expensive process needed to develop and implement noise abatement procedures at airports, either through the FAA’s Part 150 process, or through other airport specific processes, airlines seem to ignore them. The rationale often provided is that each airline is entitled to develop and implement its own flight procedures, some, but not all of which incorporate the specified noise abatement procedures. This situation was exacerbated in 1990 when the Airport Noise and Capacity Act, 49 U.S.C. § 47521, et seq., took noise abatement policy making out of the hands of local airports and placed approval authority exclusively in the hands of the FAA.

A deceptively simple solution to this pervasive problem of airlines non-uniform observance of airport specific noise abatement policies has been developed by a small, new company in Truckee, California, Whispertrack.
 

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Ninth Circuit Calls FAA to Task on Environmental Impacts of New Runway

In what might be a surprising decision in any other Circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling in Barnes v. U.S. Dept. of Transportation, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-70718, August 25, 2011, which, while narrow, begins the process of eroding both the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) long held position that “aviation activity . . . will increase at the same rate regardless of whether a new runway is built or not,” Barnes, at 16285, and the Federal Court’s traditional deference to it. City of Los Angeles v. FAA, 138 F.3d 806, 807-08, n. 2 (9th Cir. 1998).

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Proposed Legislation Would Grant Noise Relief from Helicopter Overflights

Representative Howard Berman of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley has been getting an earful lately from constituents disgruntled by constant, low level overflights from sightseeing, paparazzi and media helicopters from nearby Burbank Airport. In response, Berman introduced the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act which would require the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to establish rules on flight paths and minimum altitudes for helicopter operations above residential neighborhoods within one year of the bill having been signed into law. The bill would contain exemptions for emergency responders and the military. Surprisingly, while FAA regulation 14 C.F.R. section 91.119 establishes minimum altitudes for fixed-wing aircraft, it exempts helicopters from such requirements. “A helicopter may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, provided each person operating the helicopter complies with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the FAA.” 14 C.F.R. section 91.119(d)(1).

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Inland Empire's Economic Woes Remediable Through Local Control of Ontario International Airport

The Los Angeles Times reports that, while economic conditions are slowly improving throughout most of the nation, including most of California, California’s Inland Empire, comprised of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties is not so fortunate. The Times reports that the volume of home sales in San Bernardino County dropped 18.3% from last June, and in Riverside County 14.7%. Similarly, jobs fell throughout the Inland Empire in sectors such as leisure and hospitality (minus 3,200 jobs in June) and educational and health services (minus 1,300 positions in June). Finally, the region lost 3,900 construction jobs over the year, and more than 75,000 since the peak of construction in June, 2006.

As part of the solution to this ongoing problem, the City of Ontario and County of San Bernardino have joined together to negotiate a return of Ontario International Airport (“ONT”), operated by the City of Los Angeles through its Airport Department, L.A. World Airports (“LAWA”) since 1967, to local control. ONT has, consistent with the condition of the local economy, seen an approximate 30% decrease in operations since 2007.
 

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LAX/American Airlines Commuter Facility Project Avoids Environmental Review

Yet another project at Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) has skated under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). The project, the “American Airlines Commuter Facility Improvement Project,” allegedly constitutes a mere replacement of the facilities once occupied by United Airlines. Not exactly. The project actually includes, but is not limited to: (1) more than doubling the size of the passenger terminal/administration building to add passenger accommodations and office space; (2) addition of an almost 10,000 square foot building for baggage handling, office space and storage; and (3) replacement of a remote gate, accessed by foot or bus, with an enclosed contact gate such as those which are used inside the main terminals.

Despite the expansionary nature of the project, Los Angeles World Airports (“LAWA”), the Department of the owner, City of Los Angeles, responsible for operating LAX does not give so much as a passing nod to compliance with CEQA. If the project could simply be described as “new lease with American Airlines,” as a recent “Transmittal for Review of LAX Tenant Improvement Project” would have the public believe, the omission to conduct environmental review might be justified by a categorical exclusion from CEQA, 14 Cal. Code Regs. section 15301. That exclusion, however, does not apply here. The project, far from being “negligible” in scope, clearly constitutes a massive expansion of the previous passenger hold room and other passenger serving facilities.
 

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City of Los Angeles Opposes Legislative Efforts to Encourage Growth at Ontario

The City of Los Angeles (“Los Angeles”) went on record yet again, rebuffing a cooperative effort between the City of Ontario (“Ontario”) and County of San Bernardino (“San Bernardino”) to promote growth at Ontario International Airport (“ONT”). The Los Angeles City Council formally voted to oppose SB466, introduced earlier this year by Senator Bob Dutton, which would allow for structured negotiations regarding the transfer of ONT to a newly formed joint powers agency comprised of Ontario and San Bernardino. The rationale for the legislation is that ONT has proportionally suffered the worst loss of passengers and airline operations of any airport in the Southern California region, and that a shift to local control is needed to restart what had previously been considered the economic engine for the Inland Empire.

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California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook 2011 Update Delayed Again

The California Department of Transportation, Aviation Division (“Caltrans”) has announced yet another delay in the publication of the “California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook” (“Handbook”). The Handbook constitutes guidance for California’s airport land use commissions (“ALUC”) in the establishment of height, density and intensity restrictions for land uses around California airports. This delay continues and even increases the risk of conflict between ALUCs and local land use jurisdictions throughout California. 

ALUC restrictions are not the last word concerning land uses around airports, as local land use jurisdictions have final authority to approve or disapprove land uses within their own boundaries. However, ALUC restrictions can make it more difficult for a local jurisdiction to effectuate previously enacted development plans in the vicinity of an airport. This is because, to overcome the ALUC determination of inconsistency with ALUC restrictions, the local jurisdiction must overrule the ALUC by a two-thirds vote, a hurdle often difficult if not impossible to overcome because of fears of liability.

 

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If Airplanes are so Fascinating, the "Great Park" Can Have Ours

The citizens of Newport Beach read with interest the front page article in the Orange County newspaper, the Daily Pilot, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Times, of July 10, 2011, concerning this weekend’s air show at the Orange County “Great Park.” They looked with even greater consternation at the remarks of one of the attendees who stated “Airplanes in general have been a fascination for people . . . these days you don’t see them flying around as much. And when you have a chance to see them up close and personal it’s a good reason to come out.” Where has this guy been living for the last 15 years – under a rock?

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Here We Go Again - Another Airspace Redesign for the East Coast

As if seven years of wrangling were not enough, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now proposing changes to the current airspace utilization at Kennedy and Philadelphia International Airports.

 

From 2002 to 2009, governmental and private entities from Connecticut to Pennsylvania, including the State of Connecticut, various local jurisdictions in New York State, environmental organizations in New Jersey, and the County of Delaware, Pennsylvania negotiated with, and ultimately challenged, a comprehensive redesign of the airspace affecting approaches and departures to every airport in the North Eastern United States. Of greatest concern, were new flight paths over dense populations and numerous parks and nature preserves without even a cursory nod to required noise or air quality analysis.

After much contention, FAA got its way. Apparently, however, the East Coast Airspace Redesign didn’t quite work out, because FAA is at it again. First, ostensibly because of persistent delays at Newark, JFK and LaGuardia that were supposed to have been remedied by the panacea of the East Coast Airspace Redesign, hundreds of additional flights will be rerouted from JFK over residential areas in Northern and Central New Jersey. To add insult to injury, the changes will be made through an FAA rulemaking process, and not through the formal processes that characterized the first round of redesigns.

Similarly, the FAA is proposing a modification of the Class B airspace surrounding Philadelphia International Airport that will expand areas impacted by overflight to an even greater extent than did the East Coast Airspace Redesign.

In short, those who are looking down the barrel of these changes should take the opportunity to comment on FAA’s proposals, not only to foster dialogue with FAA concerning the ongoing, increasing and apparently inadequately studied procedures and their impacts, but also to exhaust administrative remedies for a legal challenge should FAA continue to “gild the lily” of the East Coast Airspace Redesign with additional enhancements, to the detriment of already impacted residents and businesses on the ground.

Draft California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook Available for Review and Comment

It has come to our attention that the most recent revision of the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook) has just been released for public review and comment. The review period will end December 27, 2010.

 

 

The Handbook and the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans (ALUCP) approved by many jurisdictions based on it, have a profound impact on development potential and cost. This is so because ALUCPs contain stringent development restrictions on projects within as much as six (6) miles of each publicly owned airport in California, independent of, and in addition to, the restrictions imposed by local land use jurisdictions within those areas. The only way to avoid such increased restriction is for the public entity to “overrule” the ALUC by a two-thirds (or four-fifths) vote which does not often happen. Absent such an “overrule,” the project, upon which a developer may already have expended significant resources, may have to be significantly down-sized or even abandoned.

Because new versions of the Handbook are typically published 10 years or more apart, any increased restrictions arising from the most recent version will have impacts on developments into the indefinite future, even if there is no currently impacted project pending. Therefore, Chevalier, Allen & Lichman strongly recommends that you file comments on the Handbook draft and thereby influence the final edition of the Handbook, or, in the alternative, ensure the right to a future challenge to the Handbook’s unreasonable development restrictions.

Los Angeles World Airports Safety Justification for Relocating the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) North Airfield Complex Closer to Westchester Homes Once Again Proven a Myth

It's a good thing that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has finally begun to pull the mask of safety from its plan to move Runway 24R in the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) North Airfield Complex closer to Westchester Homes. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), only three of the total twelve runway incursions reported at LAX during FY 2010 occurred on the North Airfield. This follows a long pattern of imbalance of incursions preponderantly occurring on the South Airfield.

 

On Friday, October 8, 2010, the FAA announced that the number of minor runway incursions at LAX increased from eight in FY 2009 to twelve during the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2010. No serious incursions that could endanger aircraft or passengers were reported at LAX during FY 2010. Nationwide, the number of serious runway incursions dropped from twelve in FY 2009 to eight in FY 2010. According to FAA officials, ten of the LAX incursions were caused by pilots who strayed across “hold lines,” while two were caused by air traffic controllers. Three of the incursions occurred on the North Airfield and nine were reported on the South Airfield, where LAX officials recently spent $83 million to further separate two parallel runways and add a centerline taxiway in an effort to reduce incursions on the South Airfield.

The FAA comparison of North and South Airfield runway incursions, showing three times as many incursions on the South Airfield as on the North Airfield, follows the recent LAX North Airfield Safety Study which found that the North Airfield is safe as presently configured, and that LAX officials’ plans to further separate the North Airfield runways and add a parallel center taxiway cannot be based on increased safety reasons.

Update on Draft 2010 California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook

In an article posted on this blog on September 2, 2010, Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP (CA&L) reported that the California Department of Transportation (Department) had announced that the Draft 2010 California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook) would be available for review and comment from September 7 through October 4, 2010. CA&L has learned that the Handbook will not be available until November, 2010.

 

 

The Handbook provides guidance to airport land use commissions (ALUCs), their staffs and consultants, and local agencies having jurisdiction over land use surrounding California airports. ALUCs rely extensively on the Handbook in preparing and updating the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans (ALUCPs) they use to determine whether development project plans submitted to local planning agencies by property developers and planners can be approved.

CA&L has worked extensively with property owners, developers and planners, as well as ALUCs and local agencies, in interpreting, applying and incorporating the Handbook criteria in land use planning since the Handbook was published in 2002. We encourage landowners, developers and planners who have an interest, or may have a future interest, in development projects near a California airport to submit comments on the Draft Handbook when it becomes available. The Handbook, when completed, will have a significant influence on land use development approvals throughout California for years to come.

Draft California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook to be Available for Review and Comment September 7 - October 4, 2010

The California Department of Transportation (Department) has announced that the Draft 2010 Airport Land Use Planning Handbook (Handbook) will be available for review and comment from September 7 through October 4, 2010. The Department’s Division of Aeronautics has been working with Environmental Science Associates to update the January 2002 version of the Handbook.

 

 

The Handbook supports and amplifies the California State Aeronautics Act (California Public Utilities Code, Section 21670, et seq.) which establishes statewide requirements to ensure that all land use and development in the vicinity of California public use airports is compatible with airport operations. The Handbook provides guidance to airport land use commissions (ALUCs), their staffs and consultants, and to local agencies having jurisdiction over land use surrounding California airports.

The Handbook is also a valuable technical resource for real property owners, developers and planners who are planning development projects near a California airport. It contains guidance and criteria which an ALUC will use in determining whether a proposed project is compatible with the applicable Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP has worked extensively with property owners, developers and planners, as well as ALUCs and local agencies, in interpreting, applying and incorporating the Handbook criteria in land use planning since the Handbook was published in 2002.

The draft update will be available at www.esassoc.com. Land owners, developers and planners, and local agencies are encouraged to review and submit comments on the Draft Handbook to the Department during the review period. The Handbook is expected to be completed in December 2010.

Land Use Planning Near California Airports Could Change Your Development Plans

Section 21670 of the California State Aeronautics Act requires that every county in which there is an airport that is served by a scheduled airline establish an Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) “to protect public health, safety, and welfare by ensuring the orderly expansion of airports and the adoption of land use measures that minimize the public's exposure to excessive noise and safety hazards within areas around public airports to the extent that these areas are not already devoted to incompatible uses.” One of the duties of the ALUC is to adopt an Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP). In formulating an ALUCP, an ALUC has the power to develop height restrictions on buildings, specify use of land and determine building standards within the Airport Influence Area (AIA) designated by the ALUC.

 

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General Aviation Airport Security

Historically, General Aviation (GA) airports have not been subject to Federal rules governing airport security. Prior to September 11, 2001, the Federal government's role in airport security focused exclusively on airports serving scheduled operations. Following 9/11, Congress enacted the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA was established to develop, regulate and enforce security standards for all modes of transportation. In the ATSA, Congress transferred most of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) civil aviation security responsibilities to the TSA.

In May 2004, TSA published Information Publication A-001, Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports (“Guidelines”). The Guidelines provide GA airport owners, sponsors and operators a set of security best practices and a method for determining when and where security enhancements would be appropriate. The Guidelines do not contain regulatory language, and do not require that GA airports meet the same security requirements as commercial airports. The Guidelines are not mandatory, and do not establish any criteria that must be met in order to qualify for Federal funds. (TSA does require GA facilities located within the Washington D.C. Airspace Defense Identification Zone Flight Restricted Zone to implement security measures.)

 

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Recent Development in FAA Airport Privatization Program

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has accepted the preliminary application by Gwinnett County Airport Briscoe Field (Airport) to participate in the FAA Airport Privatization Program. The airport sponsor, Gwinnett County, may now negotiate an agreement with a private company to operate the Airport. Gwinnett County may then submit a final application to the FAA for approval. If the final application is approved, the Airport would qualify as the one general aviation airport required by the Pilot Program, and be eligible to receive exemptions from certain Federal statutory and regulatory requirements.

 

The FAA published notice of the preliminary application in the July 7, 2010, Federal Register. The FAA will be required to publish notice of receipt of the final application in the Federal Register and allow a 60-day period for public review and comment.

An update on the Airport Privatization Program was posted by Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP on this Aviation & Airport Development Law Blog on July 6, 2010.

Update on the Federal Aviation Administration Airport Privatization Pilot Program

Many in the aviation community have been monitoring the progress of Chicago's efforts to privatize Midway International Airport (MDW) under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Privatization Pilot Program. The City faces a July 31, 2010 deadline to either select a private operator for MDW or seek an extension of the City’s slot in the Program from the FAA. Chicago is the only approved applicant for the Program’s only large-hub slot. If the application is approved, MDW would be the first privatized large-hub airport in the U.S. 

 

The Airport Privatization Pilot Program was established in 1996 by Section 149 of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which added a new Section 47134 to Title 49 of the U.S. Code. Section 47134 authorizes the Secretary of Transportation and, through delegation, the FAA Administrator, to exempt a sponsor of a public use airport that has received Federal assistance from certain Federal requirements in connection with the privatization of the airport by sale or lease to a private party.

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Summary of the John Wayne Airport Phase 2 Access Plan

Under the 1985 John Wayne Airport Stipulated Settlement Agreement, as amended in 2003, regularly scheduled commercial users operating at JWA shall not serve more than 10.3 million annual passengers in any year beginning on January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2010, and not more than 10.8 MAP beginning on January 1, 2011 through December 15, 2015. To maintain passenger traffic within those limits, and to balance the needs of the Orange County community for adequate commercial air transportation facilities and the desire of the local community for environmentally responsible air transportation operations at JWA, the County, in its capacity as proprietor and operator of JWA, imposed noise restrictions; implemented Permitted Commercial Operations Hours (commonly referred to as a “curfew”); and adopted limits on the noise levels of aircraft operating at JWA, and the number of passengers those aircraft could accommodate in any year.

 

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John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement - Past and Future

Many governmental entities and affected communities have heard a great deal about the John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement and the restrictions it imposes on noise from airport operations, the most stringent in the United States, including a mandatory curfew for aircraft that exceed specified noise levels in departure. For a full discussion, please see John Wayne Airport Settlement Agreement - Past and Future.

FAA's Most Recent Forecast Sees Massive Increase in Passengers at Region's Airports

The Federal Aviation Administration's most recent forecast of future airline passengers at the region's airports is an eye opener. In the forecast year 2030, FAA is projecting 49.3 million enplanements (98.6 million total passengers) at Los Angeles International Airport; 3 million enplanements (6 million total passengers) at Ontario International Airport; and 6.6 million enplanements (13.2 million air passengers) for John Wayne Airport. This compares to current figures for LAX of approximately 58 million air passengers a year; Ontario, 4.5 million air passengers a year; and John Wayne Airport, 9.8 million air passengers a year.

Of course, 2030 is 20 years away and much can happen between now and then. Therefore, the real eye opener is the comparatively low projected growth of Ontario. Despite the fact that Ontario has new terminals, runways thousands of feet longer than those at John Wayne Airport, and convenient freeway access to all of the Inland Empire as well as northeast Orange County, FAA does not expect it to grow more than 33%, compared to John Wayne Airport’s 38% and LAX’s whopping approximately 60%.

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Federal Aviation Administration Increases Protections for Airline Passengers

On June 2, 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a proposed rule that calls for a new level of protection for airline passengers, including compensation for involuntary "bumping;" permission to cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty; and prohibition on airline ticket price increases after purchase.

 

This most recent proposal is in addition to the Final Rule promulgated last month which bans lengthy tarmac delays and the imposition of other inconveniences as well as questionable health practices by the airlines.

Interested parties may submit comments on the proposal to the FAA within 60 days. It is a certainty that the airlines will do so, as the proposal appears to have a potential impact on their bottom lines. Further discussion of the proposal can be found at www.dot.gov/affairs/2010/dot11010.html
 

Proposed Federal Litigation Would Permit Residential Through-The-Fence Operations at Public Use Airports

If enacted, proposed legislation would change the landscape for “through-the-fence” operations at public use airports that receive Federal funding. Through-the-fence [TTF] operations occur when an airport sponsor enters into an agreement that permits access to airport taxiways, runways and facilities by aircraft based on land adjacent to, but not part of, airport property. TTF operations range from off-airport fixed base operators [FBOs] who provide aeronautical support and services, and often compete with on-airport FBOs to provide the same support and services, to residential TTF agreements that grant airport access from hangars and homes located on private property adjacent to an airport [also known as “fly-in communities” or “residential airparks”]. Historically, the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] has “discouraged” TTF operations at Federally funded airports, especially by FBOs that would compete with on-airport FBOs. The FAA has approved some residential TTF agreements on a case-by-case basis.

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Los Angeles City Council: Study Transfer of Ontario International Airport to City of Ontario

On May 18, 2010, the Los Angeles City Council approved, by a 12-3 margin, a Motion calling for a study of the requirements for, and costs and benefits of, returning Ontario International Airport (“ONT”) to the control of the City of Ontario, California.

Passenger traffic at Ontario has declined from 7.2 Million Air Passengers in 2007 to 4.88 in 2009. Projected revenues for Fiscal Year 2011 have also declined from $78.6 million to $75.5 million. While projected costs have also been lowered to $67 million from the originally forecast $76.8 million, Los Angeles City Councilman Greg Smith’s Press Aide, Matt Meyerhoff expressed Councilman Smith’s view that Los Angeles is “looking to sell the airport and getting some money out of the deal.” The Study is due to be completed by September 1, 2010.

LAWA Proposes $647.6M Airports Budget for New Fiscal Year

Los Angeles World Airports on Monday projected a $647.6 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to preliminary figures.  The operating budget covers day-to-day expenses at Los Angeles International Airport and the agency's smaller airports in Ontario and Van Nuys.  On its own, LAX's operating costs during the 2010 fiscal year are expected to increase 1.8 percent to $565 million, while revenue is projected to increase 5.8 percent to $705 million.  LA/Ontario International Airport is expected to see a 14.6 percent budget cut, while Van Nuys Airport will experience 10.9 percent in operating reductions, according to the proposed budget.  The Board of Airport Commissioners is expected to consider a final draft the LAWA's budget on June 7, said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of the airport agency.  Art Marroquin/Torrance Daily Breeze

North Airfield Safety Study Final Report Confirms Earlier Conclusion That the North Airfield is Safe

The Los Angeles International Airport North Airfield Safety Study Final Report (“Final Report”), published on May 11, 2010, looks very much like the draft. The Final Report, like the draft, concluded that no safety problem exists on the two runways of the North Airfield. It further concludes that an additional separation of the runways by 340 feet is unnecessary for safety purposes, although useful for increasing capacity. Finally, the study concludes that an additional separation of 100 feet, originally proposed by the Cities of Inglewood and El Segundo, which would allow the addition of a center taxiway, would be sufficient to accommodate any remaining safety concerns. The study, however, reaches the correct conclusions for the wrong reasons.

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Airline Passengers Finally Have Protection

The United States Department of Transportation has finally taken a step the United States Congress refused to take: it has enacted an Airline Consumer Protection Rule that, among other things: (1) limits to three hours the amount of time passengers at large and medium hub airports must spend on a delayed aircraft without deplaning (with exceptions for safety and security); (2) requires food, potable water and usable bathrooms after no more than two hours; (3) requires provision of medical attention where required; and (4) requires airlines, by July 23, to display on their website delay information for every domestic flight the airlines operate.  www.dot.gov/affairs/2010/dot8210.htm

It has been Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP’s position from the outset that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure, has always required that passengers be released from delayed aircraft whether on the tarmac or not (see previous Chevalier, Allen & Lichman blog on the subject). However, the courage and proactivity of the Department of Transportation, especially in the absence of the same courage from Congress, deserves approbation from the public and from Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP. The full text of the Final Rule can be found at edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-30615.pdf.

Chevalier, Allen & Lichman, LLP Targets Park Ridge, Illinois Airport Noise Problem

On Monday, May 17, 2010, Chevalier, Allen & Lichman (“CA&L”) spoke to the City Council of the City of Park Ridge, Illinois, at its invitation, concerning Park Ridge’s dramatic and growing noise problem.

Park Ridge is located approximately two miles from the end of a new runway at O’Hare International Airport.  As a consequence of the runway’s recent opening, Park Ridge now experiences 400-500 operations per day at altitudes less than 1,000 feet with Single Event Noise Levels often in excess of 75 dB (a level considered dangerous by the FAA).  The noise affects elementary and high schools, as well as a substantial number of residences.

Recognizing both the severity of the problem and CA&L’s long experience in solving similar problems, the City Council sought CA&L’s views on the way in which legal action may be utilized to both compliment and supplement cooperative dialogue with the airport in finding innovative solutions to the daunting issues faced by Park Ridge.

To view CA&L's presentation, click here.

Airport Cooperative Research Program Publication Regarding "Enhancing Airport Land Use Compatibility"

On April 26, 2010, the Transportation Research Board published a three volume Airport Cooperative Research Program (“ACRP”) report on “Enhancing Airport Land Use Compatibility.”  The authors’ mandate was “to investigate and present the current breadth and depth of knowledge surrounding land uses around airports and to develop guidance to protect airports from incompatible land uses that impair current and future airport and aircraft operations and safety and constrain airport development.”  Report, Forward.  

It should be emphasized that this publication provides guidance only to local jurisdictions.  It is not regulatory, because the FAA cannot control land use planning in jurisdictions around airports.  As FAA has often acknowledged, land use planning is a purely local function.  If FAA were to presume to control land use planning off airport, it would also be subject to legal and constitutional constraints on land use planning such as the deprivation of a landowners’ reasonable use and enjoyment of property (“nuisance”) and/or the taking of property without just compensation (“inverse condemnation”), a result FAA wants to avoid at all costs.  

Consequently, research concerning land use planning around airports should include, and, in fact, be targeted at, local land use ordinances and regulations such as the airport land use planning statutes in California (Public Utilities Code § 21670, et seq.). 

FAA to Announce Conformity Determination for Philadelphia's CEP Project

UPDATED May 5, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced in the April 23, 2010 Federal Register that it will release the Draft General Conformity Determination for the Preferred Alternative (Alternative A) for the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) Capacity Enhancement Program (CEP) for public comment on April 27, 2010.  Ordinarily, the public has 30 days to submit comments on the Conformity Determination.  [We will update this BLOG when the comment due date in made public.]

The Preferred Alternative would extend PHL Runways 8/26 and 9R/27L to the east, and add a third parallel east-west runway.  Alternative A would also reconstruct and enlarge the terminal complex, increasing it from 120 to approximately 150 gates.

Federal law prohibits Federal agencies from approving or funding any project that is either: (1) not expressly exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) General Conformity Rule; or (2) presumed to conform, until agencies have determined that the proposed project conforms to a State [Air Quality] Implementation Plan (SIP).

If you are concerned about the impacts the CEP Project might have on air quality in the PHL area, the Conformity Determination comment period provides both an opportunity and the means by which to express those concerns to the FAA.  The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the CEP Project is expected to be released in late August, 2010.

ADDED May 5, 2010:

Comments on the General Conformity Determination for the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) Capacity Enhancement Program must be postmarked to Sue McDonald, Environmental Protection Specialist, Federal Aviation Administration, Harrisburg Airports District Office (ADO), 3905 Hartzdale Drive, Suite 508, Camp Hill, PA  17011 no later than May 27, 2010.  The General Conformity Determination is available at http://www.phl-cep-eis.com.

Chevalier Allen & Lichman LLP Submit Comments on Behalf of Pittsfield Township Regarding Runway Expansion at Ann Arbor Muncipal Airport

Pittsfield Township, Michigan, through the law firm Chevalier Allen & Lichman, LLP submitted its comments on the draft Environmental Assessment prepared for the proposed lengthening of the main runway at Ann Arbor Municipal Airport.  Although the AIrport is entirely located in Pittsfield Township, the airport is owned by the City of Ann Arbor.  In addition, Chevalier Allen & Lichman assisted in filing the comments of the citizens' group Committee for Preserving Community Quality.  In general, the comments addressed issues that Pittsfield Township and CPCQ believed the draft Environmental Assessment did not adequately address.

Considering Closing an Airport? Be Careful! The FAA Has Set Many Pitfalls to Trap You.

 

Your local airport is becoming a drain on the local economy. Sure, it provides a few jobs, adds a certain cachet to the area and provides a hobby for the few people who can afford to purchase and maintain aircraft. But the annual expense of keeping the airport running – and running safely - is becoming more and more like a lead weight on your budget. “Let’s just close the thing,” you say. But wait, remember all that money you accepted from the FAA as part of the AIP grant program to lengthen the runway, pay for new taxiways, and purchase property? The FAA remembers. And before you can close the airport, there are many hurdles to clear set by the FAA to discourage the closure of airports.

1.            Take A Look At The Grant Assurances

First, take a look at the documents in your possession – the grant agreements you received from the FAA and signed as a condition of receiving the grants. As you are no doubt aware, under various Federal grant programs, you have agreed to assume certain statutorily defined obligations pertaining to the operation, use and maintenance of the Airport [49 U.S.C. § 47107(a)], that are described and implemented in FAA Order 5190.6B and memorialized in the application for Federal assistance as Grant Assurances, which become a part of the grant offer and bind the grant recipient contractually upon acceptance. 49 U.S.C. § 47107(a); FAA Order 5190.6B, “Guide To Sponsor Obligations” pp. 2-13 to 2-18.

 

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DOT's 3-Hour Limit on Tarmac Delay Holds - Does It Help or Will Just Make Things Worse?

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced on Monday, December 21, 2009, that DOT was was issuing its Final Rule "enhancing airline passenger protections" by, among other things, limiting airlines to three hours waiting on the tarmac before requiring that the aircraft return to the terminal and allow the passenger to disembark. The only exceptions allowed would be if the safety or security of the aircraft (as determined by the pilot in command) would not allow a return to the terminal or if air traffic control advises the pilot that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations. 

In addition, airlines are required to provide adequate food and potable drinking water for passengers within two hours of the aircraft being delayed on the tarmac and to maintain operable lavatories and, if necessary provide medical attention.

The passengers' rights advocates were understandably jubilant that the rule had come to pass - particularly since the "Passenger Bill of Rights" that was part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 has stalled in the Senate.  Kate Hanni, Flyerrights.org's president and founder issued this statement:

This is indeed a wonderful holiday gift and a major victory for any airline passenger who has ever been subjected to an unnecessary tarmac delay and has endured endless hours without food, water or adequate toilet facilities. Flyersrights.org has fought for legislation in Congress to limit these delays, yet the bill has languished in the Senate despite bipartisan support. We applaud the Obama Administration and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for stepping up to the plate and telling the airline industry, and Congress, that ‘enough is enough’.

However, the rule raises several questions as to its consumer friendliness.  It may force airlines to cancel flights instead of having them wait.  As the air travel blogger "Cranky Flier" pointed out in his Tuesday, December 22, 2009, blog post, this past weekend during a massive storm hitting the East Coast only one JetBlue flight was delayed longer than three hours.  Why did that happen?

It’s all because of gate issues. JetBlue and other airlines started pre-canceling a lot of flights, as I noted on BNET yesterday. Obviously the more flights you pre-cancel, the better chance the remaining flights will operate, but it means that there are a lot of airplanes around and shuffling them to make gates available during a blizzard is a tricky thing. You never want to see a plane sitting around for more than 3 hours, but if it’s only one (and JetBlue compensated the passengers), then that’s not too bad for the storm of the decade.

But all this pre-canceling comes at a price. That means there are a lot more people who aren’t getting home for Christmas because so many flights were canceled.

There’s no question that airlines would have had to cancel a lot of flights, but were they more conservative because of public backlash on delays? That’s my guess. Would you rather sit on an airplane for 4 hours or just have your flight canceled? I imagine that some would be happy to sit around for 4 hours if it meant they’d get out of town. Now they find themselves stuck.

The discretion to stay in line and wait to take off has been taken away and now, after three hours, the aircraft must return to the gate.

We all know why this rule was instituted.  Indeed, the DOT's press release specifically states the cause:

This rule was adopted in response to a series of incidents in which passengers were stranded on the ground aboard aircraft for lengthy periods and also in response to the high incidence of flight delays and other consumer problems. In one of the most recent tarmac delay incidents, the Department fined Continental Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and Mesaba Airlines a total of $175,000 for their roles in a nearly six-hour ground delay at Rochester, MN.

However, incidents like the one in Rochester, MN, are the exception rather than the rule. Moreover, it is not clear from the way things played out at Rochester that this rule would have changed anything. The incident at Rochester was due to a confederacy of dunces, each contributing their own stupidity to make a bad situation even worse. Since people will still have the ability to mess things up despite the rule, whether that sort of incident can be avoided remains to be seen.

This may be one of those times that government regulation may not be the answer to the problem.  Extended tarmac delays, i.e., over three hours, are exceptions. Moreover, prior to the institution of the rule, passengers had a "bill of rights," it is called the U.S. Constitution.  See, Dr. Barbara E. Lichman's Article "Passengers Detained Have Constitutional and Other Legal Rights."  The DOT rule, however, may have given the airlines a "safe harbor." That is, so long as the flight is delayed less than three hours, the airlines would have a defense to any passenger complaints about being delayed on the tarmac.  Thus, the 3-hour rule may actually have the effect of limiting the passengers' legal remedies.

Government regulation works best when it is proactive rather than re-active.  The legal system, on the other hand, is intended to step in to "make things right," when exceptions, such as the Rochester incident, happen. So long as passengers know that they have legal rights when they are on aircraft, and remedies if the airlines' and FAA's discretion is abused, then they are protected.  While the DOT's intent was laudable, it is not entirely clear that the rule will have the desired effect of assisting passengers who are trapped on aircraft.

Why the Airports and the Aviation Industry Need to Be Concerned About Climate Change: Part One, Facts about Aviation and Climate Change

I.        Introduction

In the grand scheme of things, aviation may not represent a huge source of concern with respect to climate change. But neither should the aviation industry (airports included) ignore the fact that aviation does contribute to climate change not only through the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) but also through the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx), aerosols and their precursors (soot and sulfate), and increased cloudiness in the form of persistent linear contrails and induced-cirrus cloudiness. The intent of this series of articles is to examine the effect aviation has on climate change, outline the regulatory and legal framework that is developing, and to suggest avenues for the aviation industry to pursue in the future.  The first challenge is to clear up some misconceptions about aviation and climate change so that we can move forward with accurate and up-to-date information.

II.      Some Facts About Aviation and Climate Change

In Aviation and Climate Change: the Views of Aviation Industry Stakeholders, the aviation industry makes several claims regarding the impact aviation has on climate change. First, the industry claims that “over the past four decades, we have improved aircraft fuel efficiency by over 70 percent, resulting in tremendous savings.” As a result, the industry continues, “given the significance of fuel costs to the economic viability of our industry, our economic and environmental goals converge.” Second, the industry claims that “because of our aggressive pursuit of greater fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aviation constitute only a very small part of total U.S. GHGs, less than 3 percent.” However, in order to assist the industry in its obligation “to further limit aviation’s greenhouse gas footprint even as aviation grows to meet rising demand for transportation around the world,” those claims of progress need to come under a microscope.

        A.            Contribution of Aviation to Climate Change Remains Subject to Debate

First, how much aviation contributes to climate change is still up to debate. Several governmental and aviation industry organizations have been reporting a “less than 3%” number for quite some time while environmental groups, particularly in Europe, claim that the percentage is anywhere from 5 to 9%. In examining the claims and counterclaims concerning emissions of GHG, one has to be very careful about the language and the metrics used in determining the “impact” any given industry will have on “climate change.” Many reports and studies focus only on CO2, since the amount of CO2 produced both naturally and by humans is overwhelming. However, as just about everyone knows by now, there are other gases and anthropogenic actions that exacerbate climate change. For example, the U.S. EPA recently proposed regulations that would require major emitters of six “greenhouse gases” to report their emissions to the EPA on an annual basis. Those six greenhouse gases are: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorochemicals (PFCs), and other fluorinated 20 gases (e.g., nitrogen trifluoride and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFEs)). It also should be kept in mind when discussing climate change, especially with respect to aviation, that water vapor is estimate contribute anywhere from 36% to 72% of the greenhouse effect. This is important because the radiative forcing effect of cirrus cloud formation from the aircraft is a significant contributor to the greenhouse effect. As pointed out above, it is generally accepted that for aviation the GHGs of concern are CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), aerosols and their precursors (soot and sulfate), and increased cloudiness in the form of persistent linear contrails and induced-cirrus cloudiness.

 

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Aviation and Airport Development Updates

A summary review of Aviation and Airport Development related news and information that was made public during the past week. 

  • FAA Administrator Babbitt’s Pilot Fatigue Advisory Committee delivers its recommendationsAn advisory committee on pilot fatigue,convened by Administrator Babbitt, delivered its recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration late Tuesday, September 1, 2009.  Committee members said the FAA had asked them not to make their recommendations public. Although FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has promised to vet the recommendations swiftly and turn them into a formal proposal by the FAA, the process will take months to complete.  09/02/09, Denver Post,  http://bit.ly/4wAugf 
  • FAA gives Southwest until December 24, 2009,  to replace unapproved parts. The FAA will require Southwest Airlines to replace unapproved parts associated with hinge fittings for the exhaust gate assembly--and which help protect aircraft flaps from engine heat--by December 24, 2009.  All other unapproved parts made by the same vendor must also be located and disposed of, and results of aircraft inspections must be sent to the FAA daily.  09/01/09, FAA Press Release,  http://bit.ly/5PAe6
  • FAA tells Haines, Alaska, it cannot designate flight paths for helicopters.  Haines Borough, Alaska, is looking to eliminate flight-path restrictions and expand the number of clients that companies are permitted for commercial helicopter and heli-skiing activities.  The FAA has told the borough that it does not have the authority to regulate airspace, but borough leaders respond that they are only designating flight paths as a condition of a borough permit.  08/27/09, Chilkat Valley News, http://bit.ly/CmFqj
  • Connecticut Governor furious about low-flying F-18s. Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell was incensed about a low-flying F-18 when neither the state of Connecticut nor the FAA had received advance notice about its flight.  A spokesman for Naval Air Force Atlantic stated that the aircraft operated in accordance with all FAA-approved visual flight rules and remained within speed and altitude restrictions.  08/29/09, Hartford Courant, http://bit.ly/P4waO.
  • Expansion of Aero Country Airport in McKinney, Texas Causes Problems. McKinney City Council in Texas has approved development on the east side of the Aero Country Airport that could double its size; nearby residents oppose the expansion plans.  City By laws state that the City Council cannot reverse its decision, and Mayor Pro Tem Pete Huff seems unconcerned about homeowners who say they will move if the city does not halt the expansion, citing that the airport is part of the town.  08/27/09, NBCDFW.com, http://bit.ly/3vk14h.
  • FAA Announces $2.5M grant to soundproof homes in Key West.  The Federal Aviation Administration this week approved a $2.5 million grant to soundproof 38 homes impacted by noise at Key West International Airport.  08/29/09, KeysNet.com, http://bit.ly/phcK7
  • FAA gives Miami-Dade $4.2M to extend main runway at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport. The FAA gave Miami-Dade $4.2 million to extend the main runway at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, which would allow heavier planes to use the airport to travel to and from destinations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. With an extended runway Kendall-Tamiami would be able to receive flights that would normally go to Miami International Airport. 08/28/09, South Florida Business Journal, http://bit.ly/sqmn5.
  • FAA signs ROD for Columbus (OH) Regional Airport Authority’s plan to move Columbus Airport’s runway farther south. Columbus Regional Airport Authority’s plans to relocate Port Columbus International Airport’s runway farther south along with other improvements has been approved by the FAA, contingent upon environmental remediation in the area. The next issue for the airport is a decision from the FAA on the level it will be funding the project; the government’s intent to fund only a smaller portion might require the airport authority to reapply.  08/28/09, Columbus Business First, http://bit.ly/flHYd.
  • NTSB suggests to FAA new altitudes for Hudson Corridor.  The NTSB recommended new altitudes to the FAA for helicopters and planes over the Hudson Corridor to prevent something like the Aug. 8 midair collision that killed nine people from reoccurring. In the past, the FAA has often failed to heed NTSB suggestions, with many outstanding recommendations up to 10-15 years old.  08/27/09, The New York Times, http://bit.ly/rFOqg
  • Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal says he will take Airspace Redesign fight to Supreme Court.  Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is disappointed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied an Aug. 19 request to reconsider its refusal to halt the new FAA airspace redesign project. Mr. Blumenthal is preparing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to overturn the ruling and override the FAA, since the FAA used defective data on noise and traffic and failed to follow its own rules and procedures. 08/26/09, acorn-online.com, http://bit.ly/2UUXRs
  • FAA investigates Southwest regarding use of unauthorized parts.  FAA air-safety regulators are investigating unauthorized parts installed on at least 42 Southwest Airlines jets and why the carrier’s maintenance-control procedures failed to identify the problem. The suspect parts do not pose an “immediate safety issue” but planes were temporarily grounded. The controversy exemplifies continuing friction between airlines and federal regulators on how to deal with minor maintenance lapses.  08/26/09, Wall Street Journal, http://bit.ly/4n2Srj.
  • Houston receives $8.8 million in grants from the FAA. The City of Houston Dept. of Aviation received $8.8 million in grants from the FAA to install new state-of-the-art equipment at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The grants, awarded through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Voluntary Airport Low Emission (VALE) program, will allow the purchase of equipment and vehicles that are expected to reduce emissions by up to 60 percent. 08/25/09, PRNewswire, http://bit.ly/4hcaM9.

 

EPA Proposes Airport Deicing Effluent Guidelines

EPA Administrator signed a Notice on August 17, 2009, proposing Airport Deicing Effluent Guidelines. In that Notice, EPA is proposing "technology-based effluent standards for discharges from airport deicing operations."  Effluent guidelines and new source performance standards are technology-based regulations that are developed by EPA for a category of dischargers. In this case, the deicing effluent guidelines are based on the performance of control and treatment technologies.

In general, the regulations would apply to "wastewater associated with the deicing of aircraft and airfield pavement at primary commercial airports."  (Although various industry groups have objected to using the term "wastewater" to describe the deicing effluent, since that is the term that the EPA uses in the proposed rule, that is the term used in this article).  The proposed regulations would affect airports that

  1. conduct aircraft deicing operations,
  2. have 1,000 or more annual jet departures, and
  3. 10,000 or more total annual departures.

Such airports would be required to collect spent aircraft deicing fluid (ADF) and treat the wastewater. They may either treat the wastewater on-site or send it to an off-site treatment contractor or publicly owned treatment works. Some airports would be required to reduce the amount of ammonia discharged from urea-based airfield pavement deicers or use more environmentally friendly airfield deicers that do not contain urea.

Summary of Proposed Airport Deicing Effluent Limitation Guidelines and Standards

Regulatory Level

Technology Basis

Technical Components

Airports >1,000 Annual Jet Departures and >=10,000 Annual Departures

Airports >1,000 Annual Jet Departures and <10,000 Annual Departures

Best Available Technology Economically Achievable (BAT)

1. 60% or 20% Aircraft Deicing Fluid (ADF) capture
2. Biological treatment
3. Pavement deicer product substitution

1. Capture 60% of available ADF (for airports having >=460,00 gal. ADF usage) or capture 20% (for airports <460,000 gal. ADF usage)
2. Treat wastewater to meet effluent limit for chemical oxygen demand (COD)
3. Certify use of non-urea-based pavement deicers
or
Meet effluent limit for ammonia

1. Certify use of non-urea-based pavement deicers
or
Meet effluent limit for ammonia

New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)

1. 60% ADF capture
2. Biological treatment
3. Pavement deicer product substitution

1. Capture 60% of available ADF
2. Treat wastewater to meet effluent limit for chemical oxygen demand (COD)
3. Certify use of non-urea-based pavement deicers
or
Meet effluent limit for ammonia

1. Certify use of non-urea-based pavement deicers
or
Meet effluent limit for ammonia

Note: All references to ADF are for normalized ADF, which is ADF less any water added by the manufacturer or customer before ADF application

Although EPA Administrator signed the notice on August 17, 2009, it has not yet been published in the Federal Register.  The public comment period on the regulations will run for 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

FAA Issues Notice of Order to Show Cause Regarding Extension of Limitation of Arrivals at JFK and Newark Airports

The FAA, on June 5, 2009, issued two Notices of Order to Show Cause requesting "the views of interested persons on the FAA's tentative determination to extend through October 30, 2010, the January 15, 2008, order limiting the number of scheduled aircraft arrivals at John F. Kennedy International Airport [and Newark Liberty International Airport] during peak hours."

In the Notices, the FAA recites the events that have occurred since it instituted the January, 2008, Order, which include that current proposed rule to rescind its rule regarding slot auctions at both of the airports (74 Fed.Reg. 22714 (May 14, 2009); see also, "FAA Proposes Rescission of Congestion Management Rules for JFK, LaGuardia and Newark," posted May 14, 2009).  As result, the FAA states that it does not believe that it will have an "effective final rule" by the time the January, 2008, Order expires.  Without an extension and without an "effective final rule," the FAA believes that there will be a return to the "congestion-related delays that precipitated the voluntary schedule reductions and adjustments reflected in the January 2008 order."

This extension, then, the FAA claims, is necessary to prevent a recurrence of over-scheduling at the two airports between the date that the January, 2008 Order is slated to expire (October 24, 2009) and the effective date of the the replacement rule.  The Notice extends the January, 2008, Order until October 30, 2010.

To submit comments:

  • Electronically:  go to http://regulations.gov and search for docket number FAA-2007-29320 or click here for the comment submission form.
  • U.S> Mail:  send comments to Docket Operations, U.S. Department of Transportation, M-30, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001
  • Fax:  fax to (202) 493-2251.

Other Posts on this topic:

 

FAA Proposes Rescission of Congestion Management Rules for JFK, LaGuardia and Newark

The Federal Aviation Administration today proposed to rescind the congestion management rules for JFK, LaGuardia and Newark that would have created auctions for slots at those airports.  (Click here for the JFK and Newark proposal, click here for the LaGuardia proposal)  Those rules were ardently opposed by the airlines as well as by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  These proposed rules would rescind the previous rules regarding the slot auctions, although it would not rescind the order limiting scheduled operations at the airports to 81 operations per hour.  That order remains in place until October, 2009.

Although the FAA admits that the Congestion Management Rules was "highly controversial," it does not admit that its position with respect to the FAA's intangible property rights to the slots was necessarily wrong.  The FAA states that a series of events led to its decision to rescind the rules.  First, in December, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order staying the rule. Then, the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, passed on March 11, 2009, contained a provision denying any funds to implement the auctions. Those two setbacks coupled with the souring economy, the FAA realized that "the halt in funding for this fiscal year makes it impossible for the rule to have the 10-year life originally contemplated, even without considering the challenging and widespread change in current economic conditions that led to the adoption of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009."  Thus:

 

Because of the complexity of the issues, the uncertainty caused by the Omnibus Appropriations Act, and the possible impact of the significantly changed economic circumstances on the slot auction program, the FAA believes it would be better to rescind the rule rather than propose to extend it.  Rescission would also eliminate the potential for wasting resources of all parties in the pending litigation.

 

Put off for another day, however, is the issue of whether government licenses are property.  The proposed rules simply state that the FAA is "in the process of considering its options with regard to managing congestion at the airport[s] in ways that provide a means for carriers to either commence or expand operations at the airport[s], thereby introducing more competition and service options to benefit the traveling public."  Thus, slot auctions may be off the table for the time being - at least until the the funding restriction of the Omnibus Appropriations Act expires on September 30, 2009 - but the FAA has not yet totally abandoned the idea.

Other Posts on this topic:

 

 

Non-Aeronautical Use Of Airport Land Raises Significant New Issues

An article in the March 23, 2009 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that, because of the decreased demand for air travel and the resulting loss of airport revenues, U.S. airports are seeking to replace lost revenues through non-airline related uses of airport land.  According to AW&ST, almost half of the revenues earned by airports comes from landing fees and rent for ticket counters and gates.  The balance comes from food and retail concessions, parking fees, rental car facilities and on-site hotels.  Therefore, as passenger traffic declines, so do airport revenues.

The declines in passenger traffic and airport revenues have forced airports to focus more on the use of one of their most valuable assets - land.  Many airports are looking at developing airport land for aviation related uses that do not produce passenger generated revenues, such as flight simulator facilities and air cargo facilities.  Some airports are considering non-aeronautical uses of airport property, such as warehouses, distribution centers and light industry, as alternate sources of revenue.

These kinds of uses present a number of potentially critical issues that must be considered in planning the use of airport land for non-aviation purposes, as well as planning for nearby off-airport development.  For example, entry by suppliers and employees of on-airport businesses are likely to create added airport access and security concerns.  New on-airport structures may impact air and ground safety and air traffic control procedures, and limit or restrict future changes in airport configuration and development.  New airport tenants will require new airport ground leases.

Another related question is whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will apply and  enforce Federal grant assurances with respect to non-aeronautical activities on airport property.  Sponsors of public airports that accept Federal assistance, either in the form of grants under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) or property conveyances under the Surplus Property Act, are obligated to comply with certain written grant assurances that require that the airport be operated for the use and benefit of all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activity.  Federally obligated airport sponsors are prohibited from discriminating among airport users or granting exclusive rights, i.e., a right granted to a single operator to provide an aeronautical activity to the exclusion of others.  The grant assurances expressly refer only to aeronautical activities.  However, with the advent of increased non-aeronautical activity on airport property, the applicability of grant assurances to such activity is likely to become an important issue.

Other potential issues include increased on- and off-airport surface transportation, increased off-airport development, increased applications by businesses or individuals for access to the airport infrastructure from outside airport property, i.e., “through-the-fence” operations, and various environmental impact issues.
 

FAA, NASA, and Transport Canada Sponsor New Website for Information on Aviation Noise

With little fanfare, (FAA announced it through a line item buried deep in its website on its "airport noise" page), PARTNER (Partnership for AiR Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction) began a new website: NoiseQuest: Aviation Noise Information & Resources.  PARTNER, which is  "an FAA/NASA/Transport Canada-sponsored Center of Excellence," has lined up

to be the sponsors of the site.  Despite the decidedly muted introduction, in setting up the site the sponsors state that the goal of NoiseQuest is to "your source for information on aviation noise. Our main goal is to improve the relationship between airports and their surrounding communities."

To that end, NoiseQuest has set a "community forum" on Wyle Laboratories' "Discussion Forum Website":

The NoiseQuest Community Forum is part of the Wyle Discussion Forum Website. This forum gives you an opportunity to share your ideas, interests, and question. Through this forum, we want to hear and discuss your noise problems and solutions, identify existing, effective outreach and education practices, and to share information between groups or individuals.

.  .  .  .

The NoiseQuest Community Forum can be found on the Wyle Noise Bulletin Discussion Forum List.

In addition to the Community Forum, NoiseQuest has several other sections that attempt to explain in layman's terms aviation noise, what causes it and how it is measured.

While community outreach is an important part of the FAA's strategy with respect to aviation, the community has to feel that not only does it have the opportunity to comment, but that its comments are heard, digested and implemented by the FAA, airports, and airlines.  With the lack of attention that was paid to the roll-out of this website, one wonders if FAA is serious in wanting to start a dialog with the communities surrounding airports about noise and emissions.  This could be a powerful tool in fostering communication between FAA and the communities if it is managed properly and results are taken to heart.  Such communication would be a benefit for the airports, airlines, the communities, and FAA.

Related posts:

 

U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Holds Hearings on FAA Reauthorization Bill

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has proposed H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009.  Since funding authorization for aviation programs and authorization for taxes and fees that provide revenue for the FAA expired at the end of fiscal year 2007 and revenue collections and FAA programs have been extended several times (until March 31, 2009), this bill is a priority item for the FAA. What follows is a summary of the provisions of the Reauthorization Bill.

Funding & Financing

  • Taxes on aviation users will be increased - Passenger flight segment tax increased to $3.60; International departure and arrival taxes increased to $16.10; Alaska Hawaii facilities tax increased to $8.00.
  • Provides historic funding levels for the FAA’s programs between 2009 and 2012, including $16.2 billion for AIP; $13.4 billion for Facilities and Equipment; $38.9 billion for operations; and $1.35 billion for Research, Engineering and Development.

Airports

  • Makes several modifications to the current AIP distribution formula that provide significant increases in AIP funding for smaller airports, which are particularly reliant on AIP for capital financing, as well as more AIP discretionary funding.
  • Increases Passenger Facility Charge from $4.50 to $7.00.  This provision was strongly supported by Jim Elwood, representing the American Association of Airport Executives.

ATC Modernization and NextGen

  • Provides $13.4 billion for the FAA's Facilities and Equipment account.
  • Increases the authority and visibility of the Joint Planning and Development Office.
  • Requires the JPDO to develop a work plan that details, on a year-by-year basis, specific NextGen-related deliverables and milestones.
  • FAA wants to emphasize "infrastructure" improvements at the nations' airports, which includes a full roll-out of NextGen.

Safety

  • Includes several safety provisions, such as authorizing additional funds for runway incursion reduction programs and the acquisition and installation of runway status lights.
  • Increases the number of aviation safety inspectors and requires safety inspections of foreign repair stations at least twice a year.
  • Directs FAA to commence a rulemaking to ensure that covered maintenance work on air carrier aircraft is performed by part 145 repair stations or part 121 air carriers.
  • Creates an independent Aviation Safety Whistleblower Investigation Office within the FAA charged with receiving safety complaints and information submitted by both FAA employees and employees of certificated entities.
  • Directs FAA to modify its “customer service initiative” to remove air carriers or other entities regulated by the FAA as “customers.”
  • Adds a two-year “post-service” cooling off period for FAA inspectors and requires principal maintenance inspectors to rotate between airline oversight offices every five years.

Small Communities

  • Increases the total amount authorized for Essential Air Services each year from $127 million to $200 million.
  • Requires 50% of over-flight fees collected in excess of $50 million be dedicated to EAS.
  • Authorizes the Secretary to enter into long-term EAS contracts that would provide more stability for participating air carriers.
  • Reduces local share of AIP projects from 10% to 5% for economically depressed communities.
  • Includes several provisions to mitigate the effects of increases in aviation fuel costs by increasing the existing $200 per passenger subsidy cap.
  • Extends the Small Community Air Service Development Program through fiscal year 2011, at the current authorized funding level of $35 million per year.

Consumer Protections

  • Includes several provisions to ensure passenger needs are met including a mandate that air carriers and airports submit emergency contingency plans and detail in their plans how they allow passengers to deplane following excessive delays.
  • DOT is required to publicize and maintain a hotline for consumer complaints, establish an Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection, expand consumer complaints investigated, and require air carriers to report diverted and canceled flight information monthly.
  • DOT Inspector General is asked to report on the causes of air carrier flight delays and cancellations.

Environmental Provisions

  • Includes several provisions related to the environment, noise mitigation and land use initiatives, including:
    • An environmental mitigation pilot program;
    • The phasing out of noisy Stage II aircraft;
    • An aircraft departure queue management pilot program;
    • Broadened AIP eligibility to include several energy saving terminal projects; and
    • Requirements for the FAA to build sustainable air traffic control facilities.
  • Allows airport operators to reinvest the proceeds from the sale of land that an airport acquired for a noise compatibility purpose, but no longer needs for that purpose, giving priority, in descending order to:
    • Reinvestment in another noise compatibility project;
    • Environmentally-related project
    • Another otherwise-eligible AIP project;
    • Transfer to another public airport for a noise compatibility project; or
    • Payment to the Trust Fund.
  • Provides authorization for the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions and Noise (“CLEEN”) Engine and Airframe Technology partnership to develop, mature and certify CLEEN engine and airframe technology for aircraft over the next 10 years.

Labor

  • Modifies the dispute resolution process for proposed changes to the FAA personnel management system, and replaces it with a new dispute resolution process.
  • Applies the new dispute resolution process to the ongoing dispute between NATCA and the FAA. That is the changes implemented by the FAA on and after July 10, 2005, would be null and void and the parties will be governed by their last mutual agreement.
  • Amends the Railway Labor Act to clarify that employees of an “express carrier” shall only be covered by the RLA if they are employed in a position that is eligible for certification under FAA’s rules and they are actually performing that type of work for the express carrier.
  • Requires an assessment of training programs for controllers and air traffic technicians.
  • Requires that FAA include employee unions as stakeholders in the development and planning for NextGen.
  • Requires the establishment of a Task Force on Air Traffic Control Facility Conditions to determine whether employees are exposed to dangerous environmental conditions in their work place.
  • Requires the Secretary to establish within the FAA a working group to develop criteria and make recommendations for the realignment and consolidation of services and facilities.

Aviation Insurance

  • Extends requirement until September 30, 2012, that the FAA provide U.S. airlines’ aviation insurance from the first dollar of loss at capped premium rates, after which the requirement becomes discretionary until September 30, 2019.
  • After December 31, 2019, such insurance must be provided instead by airline industry-sponsored risk-sharing arrangement approved by the Secretary.

Next Article: Summary of Comments regarding Safety Provisions.

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FAA Amends Its December 12, 2006 Order Regarding Operating Limitations at LaGuardia

The FAA today issued a Notice of Amendment to Order indicating that it is amending its December 12, 2006 Order, which temporarily capped the scheduled operations at New York's LaGuardia Airport.  The FAA published a final rule instituting longer-term regulation involving auctions of slots, but that rule is currently stayed pending review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.  (See, "D.C. Court of Appeals Stays Slot Auctions at JFK, Newark and LaGuardia," posted Dec. 9, 2008).  In this Amendment, the FAA is "mov[ing] toward an hourly limit of 71 operations from 6 a.m. through 9:59 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, and 12 noon through 9:59 p.m., Eastern Time, on Sunday."

Unlike with the final rule, under this amendment, the FAA states that it will not force air carriers to relinquish Operating authorizations at the airport, and instead it will "accept voluntary flight reductions for the duration of the Order."  The FAA will then retire the surrendered Operating Authorizations until an hourly average of 71 scheduled operations is achieved.  If the final rule comes into effect and further reductions are necessary, air carriers that voluntarily surrendered their Operating Authorizations will be credited.  In order to receive credit for the voluntary reduction in the future, though, an air carrier must present its offer to reduce scheduled service at LaGuardia no later than February 2, 2009.

The following comments were received by the FAA: 

 

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FAA Issues ROD Approving Expansion of Ft. Lauderdale Airport

In the January 9, 2009, edition of the Federal Register, the FAA announced that the Record of Decision (ROD) for the development and expansion of Runway 9R/27L and other associated airport projects at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is now available.  With the publication of this notice in the Federal Register, opponents of the project have 60 days (i.e., until Tuesday, March 10, 2009) to file a Petition for Review of the ROD and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).

The FAA identified "Alternative B1b" as its "preferred alternative" in the ROD.  That was also its preferred alternative in the FEIS.  This alternative includes the expansion of Runway 9R/27L ti an overall length of 8,000 feet and width of 150 feet.  The runway will extend to the east without encroaching onto NE 7th Avenue and would be elevated over the Florida East Coast Railway and U.S. Highway 1.  The western extent of the runway is the Dania Cut-Off Canal.  Alternative B1b also includes the following projects:

  • construct a new full-length parallel taxiway 75 feet wide on the north side of Runway 9R/27L with separation of 400 feet from 9R/27L;
  • contruct an outer dual parallel taxiway that would be separated from the proposed north side parallel taxiway by 276 feet;
  • construct connecting taxiways from the proposed full-length parallel taxiway to existing taxiways;
  • construct an Instrument Landing System (ILS) for landings on Runways 9R and 27L;
  • Runway 13/31 would be decommissioned and permanently closed due to the increased elevation of the expanded Runway 9R/27L at its intersection with Runway 13/31.

Opposition to the expansion centers around the increased noise that the expansion will bring, as well as damage to the surrounding environment.


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D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Stays Slot Auctions at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted a stay of the slot auctions that were scheduled to take place on January 12, 2009, pending arguments on whether the FAA has the legal authority to auction the slots.

Although the court's order does not go into any details as to why it is granting the Motion for Stay beyond stating that the Petitioners "have satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay pending court review," this is a significant victory for the Petitioners.  First, in order to obtain a stay one must show, among other things, "irreparable injury" and "likelihood of success on the merits."  This standard is a high one that is rarely surmounted.  Thus, it is an indication that the court is looking favorably upon the Petitioners' case.

Second, it pushes the date for the first slot auctions beyond the change of administrations.  The opponents of the slot auctions fervently hope that the Obama Administration will be more receptive to their pleas that slots auctions will not solve the problems at the New York/New Jersey airports.  With the change of administrations, there is hope among the opponents of the slot auctions that "a new, workable plan to reduce flight delays and give New York's airspace and airports the upgrade they need and deserve."

Petitioners' statements regarding the court's ruling:

Neither the Department of Transportation nor the FAA have any press release or statement on their websites regarding the court's ruling.  However, the wire services and newspapers are reporting that Sarah Echols, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, said:  "Today's court decision is bad news for travelers seeking a better flying experience in and out of the New York region.  We are committed to our goal of protecting travelers, giving passengers more options and improving the air travel experience, and will continue to assess our options to provide relief."

Previous blog posts regarding slot auctions:

Other news articles:

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Releases Notice of Preparation (NOP) of Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study (SPAS)

On March 12, 2008, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) published the Notice of Preparation (NOP) of a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Specific Plan Amendment Study (SPAS) for public comment.

In early 2005, Chevalier Allen & Lichman, LLP (CA&L) participated in a legal challenge to LAWA’s approval of the LAX Master Plan, which proposed major changes to runways, taxiways and terminals at LAX. The challenge resulted in a Stipulated Settlement Agreement, under which LAWA agreed to, among other things, proceed with a SPAS to identify potential alternative designs, technologies and configurations at LAX. The Settlement Agreement also established the LAX SPAS Advisory Committee, on which CA&L’s clients, the Cities of Inglewood and Culver City, sit as members.

The NOP identifies five options for reconfiguring the North Airfield Complex at LAX. One of those options, moving Runway 6R/24L 340 feet to the north, has the potential in our view to adversely impact communities surrounding LAX. It is our further view that the runway movement 340 feet north has the clear potential to increase capacity (and, therefore, noise, air quality and surface traffic impacts) by allowing triple simultaneous arrivals on the north and south runways. The NOP does not comprehensively evaluate the potential for these impacts, nor does it evaluate the runway project in relation to the other Master Plan projects currently ongoing at LAX, such as construction of a mid-field terminal, with numerous additional aircraft gates. CA&L believes that this project could have impacts which are, at minimum, different from and potentially more intense than those projected to arise out of the previous project.

For these and other reasons, CA&L will submit comments on the proposed scope and content of the DEIR on behalf of its clients. We recommend that other interested parties submit their comments no later than June 18, 2008.

The LAX Master Plan, LAX Specific Plan and the Stipulated Settlement are available at http://www.laxmasterplan.org.