Airports Affected – Part 139 Airport Certification
Compliance with 14 CFR Part 139 is mandatory for an operator of a U.S. airport that chooses to serve air carrier operations covered by the regulation. (An airport operator may be a public entity, such as a county or city, or a private organization or individual.)
Specifically, Part 139 applies to operators of airports in any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any territory or possession of the United States serving passenger-carrying operations of an air carrier certificated under 14 CFR Part 121 and 14 CFR Part 380 if
- Scheduled passenger-carrying operations are conducted in aircraft designed for more than 9 passenger seats, and
- Unscheduled passenger-carrying operations are conducted in aircraft designed for at least 31 passenger seats.
Airport operators can choose not to be certificated under Part 139. Part 139 is mandatory only if the airport operator chooses to serve the air carrier operations described above.
The FAA only issues Part 139 Airport Operating Certificates (AOC) to operators of airports that currently serve applicable air carrier operations. The FAA will consider certificate applications from airport operators that provide written documentation that air carrier service will begin on date certain (as specified under § 139.107). The FAA will not issue AOCs to airport operators who are requesting an application for the sole purpose of marketing their airport to air carriers.
To ensure FAA can process an AOC application in a timely manner and anticipated air carrier operations are not disrupted, FAA encourages the airport operator planning to serve air carriers to contact the appropriate FAA Regional Airports Office as soon as possible after obtaining confirmation of air carrier operations.
- For general information on applying for an AOC, go to Newly Certificated Airports.
- For a step-by-step guide on applying for an AOC, go to Small Entity Compliance Guide (PDF).
Assistance Available for AOC Applicants
FAA regional offices will provide assistance to airport operators applying for Part 139 Airport Operating Certificates. They can offer guidance and support and make available advisory circulars, informational brochures, newsletters, and safety placards. Airport operators can access this support by telephone, e-mail, conventional mail, or visits to regional websites. Regional offices also will assist airport operators in applying for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds that may be used to comply with the requirement of Part 139.
Civilian airports that do not serve scheduled passenger service are typically known as general aviation airports. These airports usually serve private aircraft and small aircraft charter operations.
Part 139 typically does not apply to general aviation airports because they do not serve the air carrier operations specified in the authorizing statute and the revised regulation (scheduled operations and unscheduled operations of air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats and scheduled operations of air carrier aircraft with 10 to 30 seats). However, if these types of operations are forecasted at a general aviation airport, please contact your Regional Airports Division Office to speak to an Airport Certification Safety Inspector about the certification process.
For airports not required to hold an Airport Operating Certificate, the regulation contains many safety procedures and practices FAA recommends for use at all airports.
General Aviation Airports that Accept Federal Assistance
Operators of general aviation airports that accept Federal grant funds or the transfer of Federal property for airport purposes must agree to certain contractual obligations. These obligations require the airport operator to maintain and operate the airport safely, efficiently, and in accordance with specified conditions, including certain maintenance and operational conditions (many of which are similar to those found in the requirements of Part 139). The FAA ensures airport owners comply with these obligations through its Airport Compliance program.
The FAA does not have the statutory authority to regulate airports operated by U.S. Government agencies, including airports operated by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The revised Part 139 clarifies that the rule does not apply to these airports (see § 139.1(c)(2)).
However, in some instances, Part 139 requirements will apply to a civilian entity that has responsibility for a portion of an airport operated by the U.S. Government (see Airports with Civilian and Military Operations below).
Airport Operating Certificates (AOCs) Previously Issued to Military Airports
Prior to issuance of the revised Part 139, FAA issued Airport Operating Certificates, under FAA Exemption No. 5750, to certain military airports operated by the U.S. DOD that served civilian commercial carrier operations necessary to support Federal Government activities. Airport operating certificates issued under this exemption are no longer valid.
Air Carrier Use of U.S. Government-Operated Airports
Regulations covering the certification of certain air carriers, Part 121, will permit air carriers to use noncertificated airports operated by the U.S. Government if these airports comply with specified safety requirements (see revised § 121.590, Use of certificated land airports).
Airports with Civilian and Military Operations
Airports where civilian and military operations commingle are known as either "joint-use airports" or "shared-use airports."
Under the revised Part 139, civilian air carrier operations of either a joint-use airport or a shared-use airport will come under the purview of Part 139 (see § 139.1(b) and § 139.5).
The FAA has revised its policy regarding the certification of airports with civilian and military operations under the revised Regulation. Initially, FAA stated on this web site that if a civilian authority is only responsible for the terminal building and the landside and the U.S. Government controls the airfield, then no Part 139 Airport Operating Certificate is needed. This is no longer the case.
Any civilian authority that is only responsible for a loading ramp(s) or aircraft parking area(s) available for air carrier use will be required to hold a Part 139 Airport Operating Certificate and comply with the portions of the Regulation that are within their oversight. This would include requirements for maintaining paved areas of ramps and parking areas (Part 139.305), fuel fire safety procedures (Part 139.321), airport emergency plan (Part 139.325), airport condition reporting (Part 139.339), and marking/lighting construction and other unserviceable areas (Part 139.341). The FAA also will continue to require a civilian authority that controls any of the movement area, even if it is just a taxiway, to have a Part 139 Airport Operating Certificate.
So if the civilian authority controls any portion of a ramp, aircraft parking area, taxiway, and/or runway used by applicable air carriers, the civilian authority is responsible for maintaining these areas to Part 139 standards and describing procedures for doing so in the Airport Certification Manual (ACM). Otherwise, the ACM should describe those portions of ramp or movement areas used by air carriers that are controlled by the U.S. Government and reference the lease agreement between the civilian authority and the U.S. Government. While it isn't necessary to include this agreement in the ACM, at a minimum, FAA will need to review the agreement to ensure the conditions described in the ACM are accurate.
The ACM at such airports also will need to address compliance with Part 139 requirements that are not necessarily associated with a specific piece of pavement, such as Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF), snow removal, fuel fire safety, and wildlife hazard management. It is acceptable for the civilian authority to make arrangements for the U.S. Government to comply with these requirements, so long as this arrangement is FAA-approved and described in the ACM. For example, a military base has ARFF capability and is willing to provide ARFF during applicable air carrier operations, as specified in Part 139.
In addition, civilian authorities operating a joint-use or shared-use airport that have accepted Federal funds may have obligations under Federal grant assurances. Also, such civilian authorities may have other responsibilities under Federal regulations other than Part 139, particularly those regulations pertaining to air traffic, air navigation, and airport security.
Civilian Airport Operators that Have Accepted Federal Funds
Civilian authorities operating a joint-use or shared-use airport that are not covered by Part 139 requirements but have accepted Federal airport improvement funds may have obligations under Federal grant assurances. In addition, such civilian authorities may have other responsibilities under Federal aviation regulations other than Part 139, particularly those regulations pertaining to air traffic, air navigation, and airport security.
The statutory authority of Part 139 does not apply to Alaskan airports
- That do not serve air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats (see § 139.1(c)(3)); or
- During time periods when the airport is not serving air carrier aircraft with more than 30 seats (see § 139.1(c)(4)).
Alaskan Airports Serving Large Air Carrier Operations
Airports in the State of Alaska that serve large air carrier operations (more than 30 seats) will continue to be certificated under Part 139 and reclassified as Class I or Class IV airports.
The FAA has determined it is not in the public interest to certificate heliports at this time and has exempted operators of heliports from complying with Part 139 requirements (see § 139.1(c)(5)).
Heliports typically are used by general aviation operators and serve very few air carrier operations. (Currently, only one heliport is voluntarily certificated under Part 139; although it does not serve air carrier operations conducted in helicopters with more than 30 seats.) Further, there are very few helicopters that can seat more than nine passengers, and fewer still are used for scheduled passenger operations. Since Congress has not given FAA the authority to certificate facilities serving general aviation operations and the vast majority of operations served by heliports are by general aviation operators, certificating the few heliports that serve air carrier operations would not significantly enhance safety.
The provisions of the revised Part 139 are designed for airports serving fixed-wing aircraft and often do not transfer to heliports. However, FAA will continue to monitor the situation and encourage heliport operators to follow Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5390-2, Heliport Design, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 418. In addition, those heliport operators that have accepted Federal funds may be obligated to comply with AC 150/5390-2 under their grant assurances.
- Airport Safety & Operations Division
- Regional & Airport District Offices
- FAA Aviation Safety Hotline
- Part 139 Airport Certification Status List
- Airports with 5G Buffers
- CertAlert 21-01, Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) Testing at Certificated Part 139 Airports (PDF)
- CertAlert 21-04, Updated Guidance for Airport Emergency Plans (AEP) under 14 CFR Part 139.325(b)(7) (PDF)
- CertAlert 21-05, Part 139 Extinguishing Agent Requirements
Diesel Exhaust Fluid and Fuel System Icing Inhibitor Video
Control of Fuel System Icing Inhibitor and Diesel Exhaust Fluid at Airports
FAA Disclaimer: The Energy Institute (EI) produced the video. The EI is a non-profit chartered professional membership body, based in the United Kingdom, that brings together professionals working globally across the energy sector. The body works to address global challenges and uses their skills and knowledge to suggest safety practices that also protect the environment. The FAA encourages users of the aviation system to clearly and safely label Diesel Exhaust Fluid and Fuel System Icing Inhibitor and keep them stored in separate areas, to avoid any accidental mixing of fluids