Need More Parking? How to Make an Airport Hangar Your Garage ""

By | July 3, 2017

Hangin’ Tough: If You Need More Parking, Try an Airplane Hangar

You’ve run out of garage space and cars are stacked three deep in your driveway. Time to get more real estate! Know where there’s lots of room, often cheap? Airports. A hangar usually comes with security, heat, and electricity, making it the perfect place for your collection. Hangars near big cities can rent for less than $400 per month. Half that at smaller airports gets you 1000 private square feet for automotive hootenanny.

But be careful how you go about your business. Responding to a wave of people using airport hangars as personal workshops and garages, the Federal Aviation Administration rewrote the rules to shove out non-aeronautical users. The FAA wants airplanes in hangars, and anything that gets in the way of aeronautical purposes will raise a red flag as of the first of this month. Still, general aviation is in the depths of a 30-year slump. Airports need tenants. Abide by the spirit of the law, and you can still make an airport ­hangar your cheap garage. Here’s how:

Moonlight as an Aircraft Support Shed An FAA spokeswoman we talked with says a hangar must house an aircraft, but the specific wording of the policy leaves room for interpretation. Using a hangar as a workspace or for storage of aircraft-handling equipment satisfies one of the federal administration’s definitions of “aeronautical use.” Workbenches and tools can be shared for car maintenance, but you might also want to store your buddies’ skydiving gear or flying paraphernalia, such as wheel chocks, dollies, and tow bars for dragging aircraft out of hangars.

Petition the FAA If you want to drop the flyboy façade, the airport can request—on your behalf—that the FAA approve non-aeronautical use for a period of three to five years. If that fails, petition for a month-to-month lease. Be aware that the FAA policy states that airports must charge a fair-market rate for non-aeronautical use, which likely means this approach will cost more. And written into either short-term contract is a clause stating that the airport can kick you out with 30 days’ notice if it gets an offer from an aviation tenant.

Rent a Non-FAA Hangar Even a privately owned hangar at an airport that accepts federal grants has to follow the new stand­ards. The exceptions are hangars at airports that have no federal obligations, where you’re only held to the facility’s own rules. They’re usually regional or grass-strip airports, and a lot of them need the money. They’ll be happy to rent you a vacant hangar for your car collection. It may not be in the middle of a major city, but that could be a good thing, too.

Make Friends with a Flyer Outside the rows of hangars at most airports, you’ll see Pipers, Cessnas, and Mooneys tied to anchors in the pavement, kept outside permanently. Sun eats into their paint, and their owners are unable to keep gear or tools nearby. But a tie-down is cheaper than a hangar. If you trust a tie-down lessee, offer to split a hangar. His or her payment won’t change, and you can pick up the difference. Or find a hangar tenant who’ll trade floor space for help with the bill. Just keep your cars and motorcycles out of the plane’s way.

Build a Plane Then you’ll have more toys. As long as you’re using a hangar to build a kit plane or glider or to refurbish an airplane, the FAA is satisfied. Keeping an inactive aircraft inside indefinitely doesn’t count, though. The FAA doesn’t specify a hard deadline for getting an aircraft operational but gives airport managers the leeway to boot tenants in favor of someone with an immediate need.

Front and Center

The FAA policy states that anything else in a hangar must “not interfere with movement of aircraft in or out of the hangar, or impede access to other aeronautical contents of the hangar.” so keep a path clear.

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