Pilots Working Together To Promote & Protect Airports

by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager Government Affairs & Airport Advocacy
Great Lakes Region
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published In Midwest Flyer Magazine Online October/November 2021 Issue

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” quoted by Thomas Jefferson. While his thoughts at the time were focused on a new-born republic and instituting democracy, the application of vigilance is true to form in modern America. 

General Aviation is unique in the United States. We, as pilots and aircraft owners, experience a freedom that few in the world know. We can begin a flight from a small rural airport in Indiana, make our way across the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, stop for fuel in “wild and wonderful” West Virginia, then have lunch near the grounds of the first controlled powered flight on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. All made possible by the robust network of airports that reside near metroplexes, and those that are cut out of farm fields. AOPA is committed to the promotion and protection of these assets.

How Grant Assurances Protect Your Airport

An issue that we receive questions and concerns about on a regular basis is the non-aeronautical use of airport and hangar facilities. While every airport is different, let’s focus on airports that receive FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant dollars. When an airport receives this federal grant funding, there are stipulations that an airport sponsor must abide by, one of those being making the airport available to aeronautical users (Grant Assurance #19-Operation and Maintenance). Hangars, both sponsor-owned and private-built on a land lease on these public facilities, fall under the obligation to be made available to aeronautical users. Any non-aeronautical use must be approved by the FAA with stipulations in a lease to return the facility to aeronautical use when the demand arises.

Any non-aeronautical use lease must include a rate that is market-rate for commercial space or storage, which is usually higher than a hangar lease rate. The FAA will require a proposal showing the reason for lack of aeronautical use, lease rates, provisions to return the facility to aeronautical use when demand arises, and that the non-aeronautical use lease cannot exceed five years.

There are avenues for an aeronautical user to file a complaint with the FAA if a facility is not being made available to them. This would include a “Part 13 or Part 16” complaint as outlined in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 13 and Part 16.

It is always the advice of AOPA to try and resolve an issue locally before filing a complaint. In fact, the FAA requires that the parties try to resolve the issue locally before initiating a compliance investigation. I, along with other AOPA staff, are happy to help in a situation that may arise and offer advice and resources to resolve the problems. 


The current use of 100LL AVGAS is under fire in communities across the country. In August, the Santa Clara, California, County Board of Supervisors voted to expeditiously eliminate lead from operations and simultaneously pursue options to close the Reid-Hillview airport as soon as possible. AOPA is working with the FAA and private industry on a path toward quicker implementation of a universally acceptable 100 octane lead-free fuel for our GA fleet. In the meantime, we need to be aware and vigilant of the concerns that may present themselves in local communities.

AOPA can and will help educate local leaders on the current use of fuels, and what is being done by the industry and the FAA to transition to a lead-free fuel source. This is a dynamically important topic that AOPA, and other associations, are engaged in at all levels, and we need advance warning of any discussions on this topic at your airport. Engage with your local Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer or become one yourself.   

Airports face a myriad of issues, no matter the size. Funding, development, calls to close, and the political fallout at the very local level. While the issues are sometimes very similar, the solutions or resolutions can be very different given the local environment. AOPA relies on our ASN Volunteers to help navigate those issues. Local knowledge is powerful, and there is only one way to get that knowledge, and that’s by working with a local resource – YOU!

Do you want to help your airport? Do you want to make sure your airport remains accessible and sustainable? If that is a simple yes, visit aopa.org/asn and learn more details about the AOPA Airport Support Network, and join the 2,000 volunteers already enlisted. kyle.lewis@aopa.

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