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Through-the-Fence Operations Dispute in Idaho

June 18, 2009 — The FAA recently informed the City of Driggs, Idaho, that it had approved a request for about $7 million dollars in airport improvement projects (AIP) for Driggs-Reed Memorial Airport (DIJ). But when it was discovered that the FAA was requiring the city to terminate all existing “through-the-fence” (TTF) operations before releasing the funds, EAA heard from TTF operator Brent Blue, EAA 377214, for advise and information regarding the legality of such action. (Through-the-fence operations are those in which a public airport owner authorizes access to the public landing area by a person or entity that owns adjacent, privately owned property.)

Blue and other TTF operators at DIJ recently obtained a preliminary court injunction against the City of Driggs preventing them from terminating any existing TTF operations. Such action, the injunction states, would adversely affect the TTF operators “interest in real property related to their existing and future rights to conduct TTF operations…” and may cause the operators to “…suffer irreparable damage…” to their property.

FAA guidance regarding TTFs is contained in FAA Order 5190.6A, paragraph 6-6d, which states: “As a general principle, FAA will recommend that airport owners refrain from entering into any agreement which grants access to the public landing area by aircraft normally stored and serviced on adjacent property. Exceptions can be granted on a case-by-case basis where operating restrictions ensure safety and equitable compensation for use of the airport.

EAA’s position: It is beyond the FAA’s authority to require termination of TTF operations before releasing AIP funds. In fact, TTF operations at DIJ meet all FAA guidance for allowing their continuation: 1) They follow the airport’s security requirements; 2) They pay their fair share of airport access and use fees; and 3) They comply with the appropriate Federal provisions concerning exclusive rights, non-discrimination, and affirmative action.

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