One of the battlefields for continued airport existence is the use or misuse of hangars by the airport residents. A common argument cited by airports to justify their existence is the airport’s economic benefit. To document that economic benefit, airport tenants are shown to provide both direct (rent, fuel, taxes, etc.) and indirect (promoting business, transportation hub, etc.) revenue. If tenants simply store stuff in their hangars, neither of those purposes is served very well. To compound that problem, federal funds to build those hangars are predicated on aviation use to promote, you know, flying.
So, to reinforce the local community restrictions on non-aviation uses in the hangars, the FAA got into the act a few years back and set some sweeping and rather draconian hangar usage guidelines. One reading of those rules prohibits a comfy sofa on which you and a flying friend can enjoy an adult beverage from the refrigerator in your hangar. Also, building an airplane in a hangar was found to be outside of the principle that hangars are solely for aircraft and those items that are directly required to keep (not get) them flying.
Both sides have a point. As a tenant, I want the hangar to store my airplane. But, since there’s extra space, I want to be able to put my old golf clubs and that old car in the hangar as well. Plus, since all my tools are at the airport, I want to be able to do routine maintenance on my car in the hangar. To me, the hangar is part work shop, part storage unit and, of course primarily, where I keep and maintain my airplane.
The airport, however, wanting to generate as much revenue as possible, wants only active flyers and airplanes as tenants. The shop I want, they argue, should be the FBO or the local auto repair shop. The storage I want, they argue, should be the commercial storage yard next door (on city property).
Like most things in life, the reasonable answer lies somewhere in the middle. Also like most things in life, codifying that middle ground is an administrator’s nightmare. Creating reasonable and proper hangar use rules is kind of like porn—you know it when you see it, but you can’t define it.
My home ‘drome announced strict new rules and a lot of people called for the airport manager’s head. Law suits were filed. The old rules continue and we still have hangars full of junk and (maybe) airplane pieces that haven’t seen the light of day in decades. That’s obviously on the wrong side of reasonable.
The FAA is trying again, with a little help from the AOPA, EAA, CAF and local malcontents like me. Indications are that the final ruling will be a little user friendly, permitting incidental use of the hangar, so long as the obvious primary purpose is housing active aircraft.
Your airport is part of your community, and each airport will be implementing its own rules. Be one of those local malcontents and help shape the rules to keep your airport friendly for aviators, builders and even guys who like to have an adult beverage after a flight.