Airplane Hangar Garage Rules: FAA’s Take on Car Storage

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We’ve all seen pictures of exotic cars in a giant airplane hangar. But realistically, storing cars in an airplane hangar is not as simple as you think.

Here’s what the FAA says about airplane hangar garages.


Why FAA Regulations Could Stop You From Storing Cars in an Airport Hanger

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the United States’ airlines, aviation facilities, and equipment. When the FAA regulates an airport, it will perform routine checks to ensure its rules are followed. 

Most airports in the United States receive federal grants to help cover their operating costs. 

This is mainly done via grants from the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and airport sponsorships.

However, additional funding is available through separate legislation like the 2020 CARES Act, which helped offset the coronavirus impact on the travel industry.

One of the caveats to accepting government funds is the primary purpose of airport facilities (including hangers) must be for aeronautical equipment. 

The regulations from the Federal Aviation Administration state: 

The primary purpose of an aircraft hangar is aircraft storage. If a hangar is serving its primary purpose – the storage of aircraft – then storage of non-aeronautical items in the hangar does not violate the airport sponsor’s federal obligations.

US Federal Aviation Administration

That means airports are only permitted to store cars as long as that’s not the primary purpose of the hanger. You can keep cars in a hangar with a plane or aviation equipment, but not alone. 

Privately owned airports are not regulated and may impose their own rules or policies on airplane hangar garages.


Airplane Hangar Garages: Commercial vs Private Airports

Believe it or not, almost every airport in the US is owned by the federal, state, or local city government. 

However, not all airports are the same, with the big difference being whether the airport handles commercial or private planes. 

For any commercial passenger operation, airports in the USA must have an Airport Operating Certificate (AOC). This is governed under Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 139

These regulations allow for four different classes of airports based on the passenger capacity of aircraft and whether the airport can accept unscheduled aircraft. 

While nothing stops a private airport from obtaining an Airport Operating Certificate, its costs make it extremely difficult and unlikely.

There are over 13,000 privately owned and operated airports in the US that are not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the government. They can operate under their own rules, restrictions, and guidelines, which means they can allow or prohibit vehicle storage in the hangars as they see fit. 

That said, even at private airports, most aviators have a problem with hangars used for non-aviation purposes. 

There is a limited number of airstrips and hangars, and most have a waiting list for use.

Most pilots feel that using hangar space for non-aeronautical purposes is taking away the availability of flying from others.

That said, smaller, less busy airports are more likely to permit storing cars in their hangers. Generally, we recommend talking to the airport’s property managers or owners to verify if they allow airplane hangar garages.


Can I Use an Airplane Hangar as a Large Car Garage?

Not in a commercial airport.

Commercial hangars must be used primarily for aeronautical equipment. Assuming that the hangar is not on a privately owned airstrip, a full hangar used for car storage would violate the Federal Aeronautics Administration regulations.

In private airports, the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) decides what they would and would not allow at the airstrip. Most privately owned hangars have no issue with storing a personal vehicle.

However, if the entire hangar is used for cars, there is a good chance that someone will get upset. 

It’s a good idea to talk to the airport’s owner or FBO to see if they allow vehicle storage in the hangars. If they don’t allow vehicles, there are other ways to find cheap car storage in your area.

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Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including BobVila.com, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.