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Delaware Department of Transportation

Delaware Aviation Services

Airport Land Use

Airports are a unique type of land use and require many considerations that are very different than most others. Safety, for aviators and those on the ground, is the first and foremost consideration in airport planning. The most notable considerations in planning airports are: the sheer volume of space that is needed for even small airports and the separation from populated areas, such as residential or commercial developments.

Aircraft Parking Ramp and Hangar

To this end, the Office of Aeronautics works with land use planners throughout the state to guide compatible development around airports. One important tool that has been granted to the Office of Aeronautics is review of development  within an airport's area of influence (area of influence is the area within the 'imaginary surfaces' surrounding an airport) and the power to clear obstructions from critical areas around public-use airports .

Imaginary Surfaces: Areas around an airport defining the height restrictions needed to ensure safety, as defined by FAR 77 . The most critical of these is the RPZ or Runway Protection Zone, which is based upon the maximum approach angle that an airplane can take when landing. The Imaginary surfaces form a bowl-like shape around each runway: high at the outer edges and descending as it approaches the runway.

Q. Aircraft Noise: How do I report excessive aircraft noise?
A: Excessive aircraft noise can be reported either to the DelDOT Office of Aeronautics or directly to the FAA local Flight Standards Office . Depending on the location and type of aircraft, the aircraft operation can be related to a certain airport. If the airport has a noise program, like Philadelphia (PHL) , the information will be forwarded to that office.

Q. Airport Obstructions/Building Permits: What do I need to know about obstructions/building permits for my project?
A: Certain structures have the potential to create a hazard to aviation; FAA regulations  require that all structures over 200 feet AGL (Above Ground Level), regardless of their location, be evaluated for their possible effects on air navigation. Other structures, within certain distances of airports, are also required to be evaluated. To accomplish this, the applicant must submit FAA Form 7480-1  to the local Flight Safety Standards Office . State law mandates that new construction or modifications to existing structures within a certain distance to airports or any structure over 200' AGL (Above Ground Level) must be evaluated by the Office of Aeronautics before any permits will be issued by the local land use agency (county or municipal). The Office of Aeronautics has the authority to deny construction of any structure that will create an obstruction at a public-use airport. If you are unsure if your building project falls under this requirement, please refer to the following maps of airport approach surfaces. If your project falls within or near to any of the surfaces, you will need to submit an obstruction evaluation form to the Office of Aeronautics before submitting your plans to the local building permit agency.

Q. Private Airports: Can anyone have a private airport on their property?
A: There are many private airports in Delaware, but this is not allowed by right on any property under any current zoning laws. If you are interested in establishing one on your property, you must apply to your local land use permitting agency (county or town) for a conditional use permit (New Castle County ; Kent County ; Sussex County ). The permitting agency is allowed to put reasonable limits on the airport activities, such as: hours of operations, number of operations, types of aircraft allowed, etc. A second step to establishing an airport is to request an airspace reservation with the FAA . This allows the FAA  to recognize the airport and its operations in considering the national airspace to coordinate other uses with yours to ensure safety. This process starts with submitting FAA Form 7480-1 .

Q. Public-use Airports: What are public use airports?
A: A public-use airport can be publicly or privately-owned, but must be open to the public - no prior permission is needed for landing, unless otherwise noted (check the airport directory for restrictions while planning your trip). There are currently 10 public-use airports and one helipad in Delaware. Public-use airports are licensed by the State, subject to certain requirements , and eligible for aid from the State for improvement projects such as obstruction clearing, weather stations, etc. If you are interested in learning more about opening or becoming licensed as a public-use airport, please contact DelDOT's
Office of Aeronautics .

Q. Aviation-Related Businesses: Are there Aviation-Related businesses in Delaware?
A: Delaware welcomes and appreciates the value of aviation-related/supportive businesses, such as aircraft sales and parts, maintenance, avionics, aerial spraying, banner-towing, recreational plane rides, skydiving, etc. An aviation-related business can be located at a public-use airport with few restrictions, but locating at a private-use airport requires that it meets the conditions established for the airport by the local land use agency. The Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO)  may be able to offer assistance for businesses locating in Delaware; see their website for more information.

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