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Posts: 455
Joined: Tue Dec 26, 2006 1:01 am

Question: Airport Property = Public Property?

Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:03 pm

Earlier today I was out spotting Daytona's race week flights when a very stern Volusia County Sheriff came by and spoiled all of our fun. Being less than 500 feet away from Embry Riddle's campus, I thought the police would be a little more lenient about students sporting cameras and scanners. I guess not.

Anyways, at the time I was stopped, I was parked on airport property. There is an undeveloped lot outside of the perimeter fence that the Daytona Beach Airport has been trying for some time to sell as hangar space. The lot is directly accessible by a public road, and is frequently used as overflow parking by the FBO next door. There is absolutely nothing in the lot other than dead grass and a gravel parking lot.
Since the lot is owned by the airport (therefore, the city of Daytona Beach), I had assumed the property was public use, as would be any other road or parking lot. There are no posted "no trespassing" or "no parking" signs, nothing to indicate that the area is off-limits. Therein lies my question.

Legally, what is airport property? Is airport property (outside of the fence, of course), considered public use? I know that you don't need to apply for a permit to use a city road, park, or beach, but what about publicly accessible airport property? Was the sheriff being over-zealous because of the activity near the airport, or was I un-knowingly trespassing on private property?

I directly asked the sheriff if the property was public use and he quickly responded with a "no," but law enforcement officials have blatantly lied to me before when they want me to leave an airport. Is there anyone around that actually knows the legalities of airport property in the US? Am I justified to return to my spotting location, or should I really go elsewhere?

Thanks in advance for any replies.
I reject your reality and substitute my own...
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Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:54 pm

RE: Question: Airport Property = Public Property?

Thu Feb 11, 2010 10:54 pm

If this is a public airport, then it is owned by the state/city. If there are no signs that CLEARLY state there should be no photograghy, then you should have the right to take a picture.
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Joined: Sun Aug 01, 2004 5:38 am

RE: Question: Airport Property = Public Property?

Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:25 am

Personally, I would contact the airport administration if it at all become a recurring problem. I had a similar situation at SAT a few years back with a parking lot that was accessible to the public, but was checked regularly by airport police. After a few encounters with a particular officer, he played the criminal trespassing card. I later was able to meet with field manager and police chief, and it seems it came down mainly to ignorance. The airport didn't have any real policy set up for photographers, so it was purely at the officer's discretion. In the end they set up a quick system of ID-ing photographers and there wasn't a problem after that.

It really depends on each airport regarding their policies to photographers, but I think the higher-ups are much more likely to understand than the guy out in the squad car. But if admin say no, then you might very well just be out of luck; which, for me, has meant frequent, quick stops and a lot of driving waiting for arrivals.

Good luck!

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Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:54 pm

RE: Question: Airport Property = Public Property?

Sat Feb 13, 2010 12:10 am

The short answer is NO, airport property is not a 'public place' no matter who owns the airport.

The public is admitted to certain areas of the airport (terminal, car parks etc.) for specific purposes and subject to applicable bylaws. If the airport provides spectators facilities, those are also subject to terms of use.

Though I suspect in your case the cop was just lying to you and didn't know the exact situation. There's always one (at least) at every airport.   

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