The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released changes to its existing policy regarding the non-aeronautical use of aviation facilities June 15. Specifically, the policy update addresses the use of hangars located at federally obligated airports. Airports that have not received federal assistance in the form of Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants or federal conveyances are not subject to these constraints.
Overall, the greatest change to the existing policy is in how hangars may be used at airports that have received federal funds. In the past, they could only be used as storage for aeronautical use, and that definition was very narrow. The policy update, however, allows for the expanded use of hangars.
Members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) have been lobbying for an expansion of the definition of “aeronautical use” for a number of years and, as a group, consider this expanded definition a win. According to the AOPA, some of the most important changes that the policy update enables include:
- Building experimental and kit aircraft in hangars — In the past, only the final assembly was permitted at the hangar, but now, more of the work can be done on-site. The AOPA maintains that this is an aeronautical activity and should be permitted in airport hangars.
- Use of empty hangars to generate revenue — However, there are a couple of caveats. According to the FAA policy, the airport must get FAA approval before entering into a long- or short-term lease. Once a 30-day lease has been approved, it can be renewed without further FAA involvement. Also, the space that is leased must be quickly recoverable should the need arise to use the leased hangar.
- Storage of non-aeronautical items in unused hangars — Another qualification with this change: The items stored in the hangar cannot interfere with the intended aeronautical use of the hangar.
- Expansion of the “operational aircraft” definition — “Operational aircraft” now includes aircraft that are down for maintenance. Airport sponsors now have the ability to determine if they will allow such aircraft to be stored in an airport hangar while maintenance is being performed.
In all, these changes to the FAA hangar policy are designed to allow federally obligated airports more control of hangar space, especially when there is excess hangar capacity. If you have additional questions about these hangar requirements, the FAA offers an FAQ webpage.