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FAA grant assurances and the Hanscom Private Jet Hangar Expansion Project
August 18, 2023
Massport has taken the position that they are required to lease their land to allow a private company to build hangars at Hanscom Field or risk being in violation of their FAA “Grant Assurances.”
What are grant assurances?
In return for federal funding of the airport for runways, towers, security, etc., Massport signs grant assurances that essentially require the airport to serve aircraft without discrimination based on type of aircraft, noise, time of day, type of service, etc. Any leases they offer to tenants are required to be without discrimination and at fair market rates. They are NOT required to provide airport infrastructure other than runways, taxiways, fencing and grounds maintenance, and control tower. The specific grant assurances that Massport has claimed affect this project are 5, 22, 23, and 24. These are respectively titled:
5) Preserving rights and powers
22) Economic nondiscrimination
23) Exclusive rights
24) Fee and rental structure
The full text of these requirements is provided in the applicable FAA document. There is nothing specific in these provisions relating to the case at hand. The only line in these provisions that appears to relate to the case at hand is in # 22: “It [the airport operator] will make the airport available as an airport for public use on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities, including commercial aeronautical activities offering services to the public at the airport.” They are required to make the airport available on fair terms without discrimination; in no place in the provisions is the airport required to lease its land.
The FAA can serve notice if they believe a violation has occurred. Based on knowledge and belief, it is highly unlikely that the FAA would initiate court action based on a failure to build luxury hangars. However, if a project proponent or an aircraft operator believes they are denied in violation of grant assurances, they could sue the airport for their denial and cite the grant assurances; examples of such cases are not known.
What is Massport claiming about grant assurances?
Massport has essentially argued that if they decide not allow the private project proponent to build this project, they might be in violation of grant assurances. In this way, Massport has tried to deflect responsibility for the project and say it is “beyond their control”. Any such argument sould be based examples of the FAA taking such action. The grant assurances are standardized and have existed for many years. Arguments about the interpretation of these assurances should be based on similar projects. However, Massport has offered no example in the USA where not building has been found a violation of grant assurances.