Hangar Check: Bend Bulletin, October 7, 2009

Bend Bulletin, October 7, 2009

Hangar Check

Airport officials are conducting inspections to ensure space is being used as intended - for aviation

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By Erin Golden / The Bulletin
Published: October 07. 2009 4:00AM PST

At Bend Municipal Airport, hangars are supposed to be used for storing planes - and not much else.

But in the past, city officials have found some airport tenants storing cars, furniture, office supplies and other personal belongings in their hangars, even though city and county rules state that hangars are intended only for aviation storage.

Now, Airport Manager Gary Judd is taking on the problem, starting this week with inspections of the airport's city-owned hangars. Today through Friday, city officials will be pulling up the doors of the hangars, which house about 70 planes, and looking for maintenance problems, potential hazards and non-aviation items that should be removed.

Judd said he's not expecting to find any major problems but wants to be sure the city knows what's happening in its hangars - especially because it could land in hot water with the Federal Aviation Administration if airport facilities aren't used properly.

"We want to make sure it stays aviation-oriented and that's where this is headed, with each of the hangars," Judd said. "If you have room for a couple airplanes in there, you should put a couple airplanes in there. It's (going to be evaluated) on an individual basis for some of it, but overall, it's about aviation and airplanes. It's not a storage facility."

The airport is owned and operated by the city of Bend on about 415 acres of Deschutes County-owned land east of the city limits. The facility has about 200 tenants who either own their own hangars and lease the land from the city or lease the entire hangar from the city.

Last year, the city brought in more than $600,000 in revenue from hangar and ground leases.

Judd said about 35 people are on a waiting list for the hangars, so he wants to ensure that any spaces that could be filled by planes are made available.

If the inspections turn up hangars that aren't being used for planes, or those that are being used for planes that aren't usable, Judd said the city will encourage tenants to make room for other planes or move out.

"We're really, really encouraging that because every airplane that we can put in the airport generates fuel sales and interest in aviation," he said.

The hangar use issue last came up about a year ago, when former Airport Manager Susan Palmeri told the Bend City Council it was time to crack down on non-aviation storage and activities. At the time, Palmeri said the most egregious example of misuse was a tenant who'd been living in a hangar for several years.

Judd, who took over in March, thinks things have improved since then.

"I'm not aware of anybody actually living full-time in a hangar," he said. "I have definitely let it be known that the airport is not zoned for residential (use). It's an airport issue but also a county zoning issue."

Airports that allow for misuse of hangars or other facilities can risk losing out on funding from the FAA, which has provided money for Bend Municipal Airport projects, including the construction of new taxiways, over the last couple of years.

"For any airport that takes federal improvement money, we have strings attached, certain stipulations. ... Buildings you lease must be solely used for aviation purposes only," said Mike Fergus, an FAA spokesman.

Fergus said he's heard of problems at other airports with tenants living in or running private businesses in hangars. Those kind of situations, he said, are often occurring without the knowledge of airport staff but can result in FAA intervention.

Fergus said federal officials sometimes perform inspections at airports or can be called to follow up on major problems. But because there are so many airports to check, he said it often falls on local airport staff to keep ahead of problems and share reports from their own inspections.

"We can't have one inspector per airport, so a lot does depend on airports to submit reports," Fergus said.

Judd said hangar use isn't an entirely black-and-white issue, that sometimes there is room to store some personal belongings. He said the inspections will provide a chance for the city to look at each hangar on an individual basis and work with tenants to ensure their spaces are safe and well-maintained.

"The first time through is to kind of give us a feel for where we're at," he said. "Most (tenants) are pretty compliant, but some are like all of us - if you have a place like this, you tend to store stuff."

Erin Golden can be reached at 541-617-7837 or at egolden@bendbulletin.com.

 

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