Avigation easements are used to clear flight paths for aircraft approaching or leaving an airport. The term "avigation" is a combination of the words, "aviation" and "navigation." These easements state how low aircraft can legally fly and ensure that the flight path remains unobstructed by plant life, buildings and distracting elements.
Avigation easements work just like other easements in that eminent domain can be invoked to enforce their taking, and like other easements, avigation easements take something away from a property. These easements are used when air traffic patterns change over a property or when an airport needs to expand their airfield.
While it may not seem that the avigation easement has much of an effect on a property, affected property owners need to completely examine the easement contract and the restrictions included. By granting the easement, the property owner agrees to never obstruct the flight paths in any way. This includes erecting any tall structure, planting tall trees, installing exterior lights, and having outdoor campfires that may distract the pilots and create smoke. Since the easement takes the airspace above a certain height, any offending plant life will be cut down to the legal height. The closer a property is to an airport, the lower the height limit. For many trees, such a cutting will kill them. This loss of trees is compensable. Another restriction is that the property owner agrees to never use any machinery that may create radio or electromagnetic interference with radio communication between the airport and the aircraft. A common addition to avigation easements is that the property owner relinquishes all rights to sue the airport in the future for any reason. This means that a small county airport could double its flights thus doubling the noise, and the property owner is powerless to do anything about it. With the relinquishment of the right to sue the property owner loses any future right to gain compensation from fuel dropped from the aircraft, dust caused by low-flying aircraft and possible crashes.
Knowing that this relinquishment may dissuade some property owners from granting the easements, airports have offered some perks to signing. In Edmundson, Missouri, airport officials offered to do one of three things for the property owners. They offered to pay the owners $2,500 with the provision that the easement must be put on the house title for future buyers; they offered to help the owners sell their house; they offered to install special windows, doors, attic insulation and special caulking that would reduce the noise by 5 decibels. Airports in Columbus, Ohio and Los Angeles, California also offered to soundproof affected homes in exchange for the easement.
The increase in sound from an airport expansion has noticeable effects on property values. Through our research, we found studies and articles that examined residential properties around commercial airports servicing primarily commercial jets, and they state an average 10.1 to 27.4 percent loss in property value of adjacent properties.
For more information on avigation easements, please contact us.