Almost two years ago (7/22/2014) the FAA issued a draft Policy on the Non-aeronautical Use of Airport Hangars, a very detailed document which attempted to distinguish between what are acceptable and unacceptable non-aeronautical uses of hangars at federally funded airports. The response from the General Aviation community ran over 2,000 comments about the application of this proposed statement of policy. They questioned the need to ban cars parked in hangars, tight rules about assembly/maintenance of aircraft and even refrigerators in hangars.
The comments were largely negative. The dispute over the pettiness of the detailed prohibitions is comparable to the battle over NCAA’s rule which tried to put a handle of unacceptable benefits. The association’s specific regulation permitted three meals and snacks, but NO MORE could come from the institution. Some devious athletics compliance officer at some evil university told the players to take a bagel with heavily slathered cream cheese;” we’re gonna beat the NCAA” was the cry! In response, the folks in Indianapolis determined that a bagel was an allowed “snack,” but found that “bagel and cream cheese constituted a prohibited “meal.” A detailed regulatory scheme only begets even more details ad infinitum or ad nauseum. The NCAA dropped the rule as being futile, or maybe infantile?
Much to its credit, the FAA Office of Airport Compliance and Management avoided the example of bagel rule, listened to the public’s practical suggestions and rewrote the final policy into a statement which makes sense and will be enforceable. In almost each and every instance, they took a more relaxed approach in writing the statement which will go into effect July 1, 2016.
Many regulatory pundits observe that rule-writing staff, who drafts a NPRM for any agency, put so much time and effort into that document, that they are unlikely to reconsider the words for which they have invested so much time and effort. That observation/advice has been frequently cited here.
Considerable credit is due to the career FAA employees who abandoned whatever loyalty that they had developed for their first draft and who rewrote the policy based on these comments. That’s what the Administrative Procedures Act mandates and you followed the letter of that law.
General Aviation will benefit from such thoughtful consideration by the Airport Compliance and Management plus the Chief Counsel’s lawyers!