For those of us who have long dreamed of retiring to an airport home, there is finally some definitive action in the pipeline. Alas, for most of us, that airport residence will likely remain just a dream. But for others, thanks to Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a co-chairman of the House GA caucus, the FAA reauthorization bill that was passed earlier this year includes a provision requiring the FAA to honor residential-through-the-fence (RTTF) agreements that provide pilots with access to general aviation airport runways and taxiways from their private residential property.
On July 30, the FAA published in the Federal Register a proposed policy and gave respondents until August 29 to make comments. The FAA reauthorization permits GA airports to enter into RTTF agreements with property owners or associations representing property owners. The property owner must pay access charges that the sponsor determines to be comparable to those fees charged to tenants and operators on-airport making similar use of the airport; bear the cost of building and maintaining the infrastructure the sponsor determines is necessary to provide access to the airfield from property located adjacent to or near the airport; maintain the property for residential, noncommercial use for the duration of the agreement; prohibit access to the airport from other properties through the property of the property owner; and prohibit any aircraft refueling from occurring on the property.
Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy, said the proposed policy is the FAA’s interpretation of the congressional mandate. “As an example, the FAA told us that the literal wording of the law prohibits any commercial activity on the residential property,” he said. “That could be interpreted as the homeowner not being allowed to have a home-based business like Avon. The FAA’s interpretation will clarify that no commercial aeronautical activity can be based at the residential property.”
AOPA said the through-the-fence issue has been a hot-button topic for GA since 2009, when the FAA announced it was planning to eliminate through-the-fence operations, ending access to airport runways and taxiways from homes and businesses located on private property. The Graves provision ensured that no GA airport sponsor’s airport improvement grants would be jeopardized by entering into RTTF agreements. Meanwhile, the FAA’s interpretation of the congressional mandate emphasizes that no aviation-related commercial or revenue-producing activities can be conducted from residences with through-the-fence access to airports.