FAA tells City of Tehachapi special treatment at airport must stop

Sign at the front gate of Tehachapi Municipal Airport.

The City of Tehachapi has to make some changes to the how it uses land and hangars at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport after a Federal Aviation Administration conducted a sight survey which revealed many tenants, including the city, were receiving preferential treatment.

September 29th the FAA sent a letter to the city stating if changes weren’t made to bring the airport into compliance then future eligibility for FAA grants would be put in jeopardy.

The FAA conducts periodic land use inspections of federally funded airports to detect and correct any inappropriate or unapproved land uses.

Among other things, airport operators must get FAA permission before leasing airport land for non-aeronautical uses. As a condition of the FAA approving a non-aeronautical use, the airport operator must show it would charge fair market value for the land.

The FAA conducted an inspection of Tehachapi Municipal Airport in May. The inspection found that the city’s use of airport property and some tenant lease agreements did not comply with the airport’s federal grant assurances.

According to FAA Spokesman Ian Gregor, specific findings of the May TSP inspection included:

-The lease for the Airport Industrial Center exceeds the FAA’s 50-year maximum lease policy.

-There are non-aeronautical uses of the airport and it appears the tenants were not paying fair market value or leasing for free. The FAA did not approve these uses. It does not appear the city got appraisals of the fair market value of the assets it is renting out for non-aeronautical purposes.

-Two hangars are used by other city agencies for non-aeronautical purposes, rent free. At the same time, there is an aeronautical wait list for hangars.

-The TSP Airport Layout Plan does not reflect non-aeronautical uses.

-A number of non-aeronautical uses may not have been charged fair market value. These include:

o Municipal land use for water sewage flow ponds.

o The Airport Industrial Center.

o Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association.

o City rent-free use of two hangars, and city rent-free use of land on which it stores vehicles.

o Kern County Transit rent-free use of a bus parking lot..

o Ken County Red Cross rent-free use of a trailer storage area

o 10 billboards.

o A cell tower.

The city has 60 days from the time they received the letter from the FAA to send back a corrective action plan detailing how the…

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