New law affects airports

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a bill designed to regulate the height of structures at airports to make sure they don’t interfere with aircraft.

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC) worked with state Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, and state Senator Joe Newhouse, R-Tulsa, to streamline laws regarding any structure near a public use airport in the state. Fallin signed HB 2179 into law this month.

“Oklahoma’s aerospace industry, including our airports, is vital to Oklahoma’s economic growth. Determining under what circumstances structures must be permitted is a process that is critical for safety. At the same time, burdensome and unnecessary requirements can hinder job growth in other sectors,” Newhouse said. “These changes bring balance to the process without jeopardizing safety.”

The “Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act” (APPPA) regulates the height of structures near public-use airports and requires a permit from OAC for construction or alteration of any structure, especially one presumed to be a hazard to navigation. It requires a permit with the county clerk.

The bill updates items in the definition of incompatible use to ensure it is in line with national standards. The changes will add in specific items such as a place of assembly (golf course, sporting field, etc.), transportation facility (roadway, parking lot, etc.), and storage facility (fuel tanks, waste-water holding tank, etc.). This will bring the definition of incompatible use in line with airport standards for what should and shouldn’t be within the primary surface (immediate area within 500 feet of the runway) and the runway protection zone (approximately 2,500 ft. from the end of the runway). These are the locations that have the highest chance for an aircraft crash during an emergency (either on takeoff or approach to landing) and should be as clear as possible to protect both those on the ground and those in the aircraft.

“The goal of these changes is to streamline the statute, ensuring an efficient permitting process for those who have to apply and to update existing language to ensure it is in line with current airport industry standards,” said Ortega.

“Under APPPA originally, we did not intend to permit temporary structures,” said Grayson Ardies, airport development division manager with the commission. “With this new language we added a specific item that states temporary structures that are in place less than 24 months do not require a permit from OAC. We ran into this problem at an airport in eastern Oklahoma where someone was placing a piece of mining equipment (that was going to sit idle and not operate as part of the mine) that did not fall within the existing item for mobile or temporary equipment..”