The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to modify the definition of “aeronautical activity” as it relates to airport sponsors’ federal compliance obligations. The proposal was issued in the Federal Register on November 15. Specifically, the FAA proposes to include “certain unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), advanced air mobility (AAM) operations, [and] commercial space vehicle operations,” in the definition of aeronautical activities published in the Airport Compliance Manual (FAA Order 5190.6B). The notice would exempt “recreational UAS operations” from the definition of aeronautical activity.
The definition of “aeronautical activity” has a number of significant implications for airport sponsors. Under the grant assurances, airport sponsors must provide aeronautical users access to the airport on reasonable and not unjustly discriminatory terms, and may not grant an “exclusive right to provide an aeronautical service.” The rents and charges a sponsor may or must charge an airport user, and the extent to which FAA approval of an Airport Layout Plan or change in land use is required, may also turn on whether a particular use is considered aeronautical or non-aeronautical.
Because of the broad implications of including UAS, AAM, and commercial space operations in the definition of aeronautical use, airport sponsors should carefully consider the implications of this proposed change and consider commenting by the December 15 deadline.
Several aspects of the FAA’s proposal raise initial concerns.
The FAA is accepting public comments on the proposal through December 15. Airport sponsors should closely review the FAA’s proposal and consider submitting comments. If you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact Steven Osit (firstname.lastname@example.org), Nicholas Clabbers (email@example.com) or any of our Firm’s attorneys with whom you normally work.