Code Section Group

Public Utilities Code - PUC

DIVISION 9. AVIATION [21001 - 24451]

  ( Division 9 added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 151. )


  ( Heading of Part 1 amended by Stats. 1961, Ch. 2071. )

CHAPTER 4. Airports and Air Navigation Facilities [21601 - 21690.29]

  ( Chapter 4 added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 151. )

ARTICLE 3. Regulation of Airports [21661 - 21669.6]
  ( Article 3 added by Stats. 1953, Ch. 151. )


This article does not apply to any temporary seaplane landing site, ultralight vehicle flightpark, or to airports owned or operated by the United States. To the extent necessary, the department may exempt any other class of airports, pursuant to a reasonable classification or grouping, from any rule or requirement thereof, adopted pursuant to this article, if it finds that its application would be an undue burden on the class and is not required in the interest of public safety.

This section shall become operative on January 1, 1989.

(Repealed (in Sec. 4) and added by Stats. 1987, Ch. 1215, Sec. 5. Section operative January 1, 1989, by its own provisions.)


(a) No political subdivision, any of its officers or employees, or any person may submit any application for the construction of a new airport to any local, regional, state, or federal agency unless the plan for construction is first approved by the board of supervisors of the county, or the city council of the city, in which the airport is to be located and unless the plan is submitted to the appropriate commission exercising powers pursuant to Article 3.5 (commencing with Section 21670) of Chapter 4 of Part 1 of Division 9, and acted upon by that commission in accordance with the provisions of that article.

(b) A county board of supervisors or a city council may, pursuant to Section 65100 of the Government Code, delegate its responsibility under this section for the approval of a plan for construction of new helicopter landing and takeoff areas, to the county or city planning agency.

(Amended by Stats. 2005, Ch. 22, Sec. 172. Effective January 1, 2006.)


(a) Prior to the acquisition of land or any interest therein, including tide and submerged lands or other lands subject to the public trust for commerce, navigation, or fisheries, by any political subdivision for the purpose of expanding or enlarging any existing publicly owned airport, the acquiring entity shall submit a plan of that expansion or enlargement to the board of supervisors of the county, or the city council of the city, in which the property proposed to be acquired is located.

(b) The plan shall show in detail the airport-related uses and other uses proposed for the property to be acquired.

(c) The board of supervisors or the city council, as the case may be, shall, upon notice, conduct a public hearing on the plan, and shall thereafter approve or disapprove the plan.

(d) Upon approval of the plan, the proposed acquisition of property may begin.

(e) The use of property so acquired shall thereafter conform to the approved plan, and any variance from that plan, or changes proposed therein, shall first be approved by the appropriate board of supervisors or city council after a public hearing on the subject of the variance or plan change.

(f) The requirements of this section are in addition to any other requirements of law relating to construction or expansion of airports.

(Amended by Stats. 2001, Ch. 534, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 2002.)


The department shall have the authority to issue airport site approval permits, amended airport site approval permits, airport permits, and amended airport permits. No charge shall be made for the issuance of any permit.

(Amended by Stats. 1972, Ch. 1309.)


(a) At or as near as practical to the site of a medical emergency and at a medical facility, an officer authorized by a public safety agency may designate an area for the landing and taking off of an emergency service helicopter, in accordance with regulations established not later than January 1, 1989, pursuant to Section 21243.

(b) “Public safety agency” means any city, county, state agency, or special purpose district authorized to arrange for emergency medical services.

(Added by Stats. 1987, Ch. 1215, Sec. 6.)


(a) Emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes by law enforcement, firefighting, military, or other persons who provide emergency flights for medical purposes are exempt from local ordinances adopted by a city, county, or city and county, whether general law or chartered, that restrict flight departures and arrivals to particular hours of the day or night, that restrict the departure or arrival of aircraft based upon the aircraft’s noise level, or that restrict the operation of certain types of aircraft.

(b) As used in this section, “emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes” are those flights in which undue delay would threaten a patient’s life. “Emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes” include, but are not limited to, flights for the transportation of any of the following:

(1) Patients accompanied by licensed or certificated medical attendants such as paramedics, nurses, physicians, and respiratory therapists.

(2) Surgical transplant teams for the purpose of procuring human organs for reimplantation in recipients.

(3) Organ procurement agency coordinators responding to a potential donor.

(4) Temporarily viable human organs such as a heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and pancreas, and human tissue, blood, or blood components.

(5) Human tissue and blood samples for clinical testing to determine compatibility between a donor and a recipient.

(6) Mechanical adjuncts or biological replacements for human organs.

(7) Medical equipment and supplies.

(8) Aircraft or equipment used during a medical emergency, or emergency personnel and first responders involved in treating the medical emergency, for the purpose of returning to its base of operation.

“Emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes” do not include the transportation of medical personnel to attend seminars, conferences, or speaking appearances in which undue delay would not jeopardize any patient’s medical condition.

(c) (1) Written information concerning the emergency shall be submitted to the airport proprietor for all emergency aircraft flights within 72 hours prior or subsequent to the departure or arrival of the aircraft. For all emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes, the information shall include the patient’s name and address, the names of medical attendants or personnel and the discipline in which they are licensed or hold a certificate to practice, a signed statement by the attending physician specifying that a medical emergency was involved, the requesting medical facility or agency, the intended destination, the type and registration number of the aircraft, and the names of all flight crew members, provided that the disclosure is authorized by and made in a manner consistent with the standards with respect to the privacy of individually identifiable health information of Title II (commencing with Section 200) of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-191), the regulations issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to that act (45 C.F.R. Pts. 160 and 164), and the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (Part 2.6 (commencing with Section 56) of Division 1 of the Civil Code).

(2) This subdivision does not apply to emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes by law enforcement, firefighting, or military personnel.

(d) Any airport that incurs additional expenses in order to accommodate the arrival or departure of emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes may charge the patient on whose behalf the flight is made, or any organization or entity which has volunteered to reimburse the airport, for those expenses.

(e) For emergency aircraft flights for medical purposes, when two airports are located in the same geographical area, and one of the airports is a “closed” or restricted airport, the Legislature encourages the use of the “open” or unrestricted airport when feasible, rather than using the “closed” or restricted airport.

(f) When leasing aircraft for flights for emergency medical purposes, the Legislature encourages the use, when feasible, of aircraft which comply with local noise ordinances.

(Amended by Stats. 2010, Ch. 54, Sec. 1. (AB 1660) Effective January 1, 2011.)


Notwithstanding Section 21006 or Section 21661 or any other provision of law to the contrary, no helicopter may land or depart in any area within 1,000 feet, measured by air line, of the boundary of any public or private school maintaining kindergarten classes or any classes in grades 1 through 12, without approval of the department or by a public safety agency designated by the department, unless the landing or departure takes place at a permitted permanent heliport, or is a designated emergency medical service landing site.

Before approval of the landing or departure of a helicopter pursuant to this section, all schools within the specified area shall be notified by the department or public safety agency of the application and shall have 15 days after the notice in which to demand a public hearing. The public hearing shall be held at a location in the immediate vicinity of the landing or departure site. The department or public safety agency shall not grant approval pursuant to this section unless it has first found that helicopter operations at the proposed site can be conducted in a safe manner, and in accordance with criteria established by the department.

This section shall not prevent the governing body of any city or county from enacting ordinances or regulations imposing restrictions equal to or greater than those imposed by this section.

(Amended by Stats. 1992, Ch. 1243, Sec. 21. Effective September 30, 1992.)


It is unlawful for any political subdivision, any of its officers or employees, or any person to operate an airport unless an appropriate airport permit required by rule of the department has been issued by the department and has not subsequently been revoked.

(Amended by Stats. 1969, Ch. 712.)


Any political subdivision or person planning to construct, establish, or expand an airport shall apply for the appropriate permit from the department prior to the construction, establishment or expansion. The application shall set forth the location of all highways, railways, wires, cables, poles, fences, schools, residential areas and places of public gathering, and any other information as may be required by the rules and regulations of the department. Whenever an airport owned or operated by the United States ceases to be so owned or operated, any political subdivision or person desiring or planning to own or operate the airport shall apply to the department in compliance with the provisions of this article. If the airport holds a permit issued by the department, the application shall be confined to consideration of the matters enumerated in subdivision (e) of Section 21666.

(Amended by Stats. 1992, Ch. 1243, Sec. 22. Effective September 30, 1992.)


(a) An amended airport permit shall be required for every expansion of an existing airport. An applicant for an amended airport permit shall comply with each requirement of this article pertaining to permits for new airports. The department may by regulation provide for exemptions from the operation of this section pursuant to Section 21661, except that no exemption shall be made limiting the applicability of subdivision (e) of Section 21666, pertaining to environmental considerations, including the requirement for public hearings in connection therewith.

(b) As used in this section, “airport expansion” includes any of the following:

(1) The acquisition of runway protection zones, as defined in Federal Aviation Administration Advisory Circular 150/1500-13, or of any interest in land for the purpose of any other expansion as set forth in this section.

(2) The construction of a new runway.

(3) The extension or realignment of an existing runway.

(4) Any other expansion of the airport’s physical facilities for the purpose of accomplishing or which are related to the purpose of paragraph (1), (2), or (3).

(c) This section does not apply to any expansion of an existing airport if the expansion commenced on or prior to the effective date of this section and the expansion met the approval, on or prior to that effective date, of each governmental agency that required the approval by law.

(Amended by Stats. 1998, Ch. 877, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1999.)


The department shall issue a permit if it is satisfied that all of the following requirements have been met:

(a) The site meets or exceeds the minimum airport standards specified by the department in its rules and regulations, provided, however, that the department may modify its minimum airport standards when issuing a permit if it is satisfied that the airport will conform to minimum standards of safety.

(b) Safe air traffic patterns have been established for the proposed airport and for all existing airports and approved airport sites in its vicinity.

(c) The zone of approach of the airport has been engineered in conformity with the provisions of Section 21403, the documents relating thereto are available for public inspection.

(d) The department when issuing a permit may impose reasonable conditions which it deems necessary to effectuate the purposes of this article.

(e) The advantages to the public in selection of the site of a proposed new airport outweigh the disadvantages to the environment or, in the case of an amended permit, the advantages to the public of the proposed airport expansion outweigh the disadvantages to the environment. Environmental considerations include but are not limited to noise, air pollution, and the burden upon the surrounding area caused by the airport or airport expansion, including but not limited to, surface traffic and expense. The standards by which noise considerations are weighed shall be the level of noise acceptable to a reasonable person residing in the vicinity of the airport. The regulations adopted by the department pursuant to Section 21669 may be considered in determining such level of noise.

Each permit issued by the department shall set forth any conditions imposed thereon, and any modification of the general minimum airport standards prescribed by the department relative to such airport or airport site.

The department may refuse to issue a permit under this article if it determines that the requirements of this section have not been met. Any person denied a permit shall, upon request, be granted a hearing by the department to determine whether the permit should be issued.

(Amended by Stats. 1975, Ch. 1052.)


The department may revoke any airport permit if it determines that any of the following conditions are present:

(a) There has been an abandonment of a site or an airport.

(b) There has been a failure within the time prescribed to develop the site as an airport or to comply with the conditions of the approval as set forth in the permit.

(c) The airport or site no longer conforms to the minimum airport standards prescribed by the department, or no longer complies with the conditions imposed in the airport permit or site approval.

(d) The owner or operator of a permitted airport has failed to comply with any rule or regulation of the department.

(e) The site may no longer be safely used by the general public because of a change in physical or legal conditions either on or off the airport site.

The department shall not revoke a permit under this section without prior notice or opportunity for hearing, unless the department determines in writing that public safety considerations require a summary revocation. In this event, any person aggrieved by the action of the department shall, upon request, be granted a hearing by the department to determine whether the revocation shall remain in effect.

(Amended by Stats. 1975, Ch. 1052.)


In lieu of revoking an airport permit pursuant to Section 21668, the department may suspend any airport permit, or may require suspension of operations of a portion of an airport, and such suspension shall remain in effect until the department determines that the conditions requiring the suspension no longer exist.

The department shall not order a suspension under this section without prior notice or opportunity for hearing, unless the department determines in writing that public safety considerations require a summary suspension. In this event, any person aggrieved by the action of the department shall, upon request, be granted a hearing by the department to determine whether the suspension shall remain in effect.

(Added by Stats. 1975, Ch. 1052.)


The department shall adopt noise standards governing the operation of aircraft and aircraft engines for airports operating under a valid permit issued by the department to an extent not prohibited by federal law. The standards shall be based upon the level of noise acceptable to a reasonable person residing in the vicinity of the airport.

(Added by Stats. 1969, Ch. 1585.)


(a) Land use conversion involving existing residential communities shall generally be considered the least desirable action for achieving compliance with noise standards regulations adopted by the Department of Transportation pursuant to Section 21669.

(b) Nothing in this section creates a private right of action in any civil litigation.

(c) This section is declaratory of existing regulations of the department.

(Added by Stats. 1985, Ch. 1180, Sec. 2.)


In its deliberations, the department shall be governed by the following guidelines:

(a) Statewide uniformity in standards of acceptable airport noise need not be required, and the maximum amount of local control and enforcement shall be permitted.

(b) Due consideration shall be given to the economic and technological feasibility of complying with the standards promulgated by the department.

(Amended by Stats. 1982, Ch. 681, Sec. 39.)


Any regulations designed to establish a noise monitoring program at an airport entering service after November 30, 1971, shall go into effect on the date the airport enters service.

(Amended by Stats. 1980, Ch. 725, Sec. 8.)


(a) The violation of the noise standards by any aircraft shall be deemed a misdemeanor and the operator thereof shall be punished by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for each infraction.

(b) It shall be the function of the county wherein an airport is situated to enforce the noise regulations established by the department. To this end, the operator of an airport shall furnish to the enforcement authority designated by the county the information required by the department’s regulations to permit the efficient enforcement thereof. The operator of each airport shall reimburse the county for its costs of implementing the airport noise regulations contained in Article 8 (commencing with Section 5050) of subchapter 6 of Title 4 of the California Administrative Code, which shall, for purposes of subdivision (c), credit the operator for any amounts received from penalties assessed for violations at such airport. Upon request of the operator, the department shall review and shall determine the reasonableness of such costs, and such costs may be considered in fixing any airport user fees.

(c) Penalties assessed for the violation of the noise regulations shall be used first to reimburse the General Fund for the amount of any money appropriated to carry out the purposes for which the noise regulations are established, and second be used in the enforcement of the noise regulations at participating airports.

(Amended by Stats. 1971, Ch. 1207.)


(a) For purposes of this section, the following terms have the following meanings:

(1) (A) “Avigation easement” means a less-than-fee-title transfer of real property rights from the property owner that may convey to an owner or operator of an airport any or all of the following rights:

(i) A right-of-way for the free and unobstructed passage of aircraft through the airspace over the property at any altitude above a specified surface.

(ii) A right to subject the property to noise, vibration, fumes, dust, and fuel particle emissions associated with normal airport activity.

(iii) A right to prohibit the erection or growth of any structure, tree, or other object that would enter the acquired airspace.

(iv) A right-of-entry onto the property, with proper advance notice, for the purpose of removing, marking, or lighting any structure or other object that enters the acquired airspace.

(v) A right to prohibit electrical interference, glare, misleading lights, visual impairments, and other hazards to aircraft flight from being created on the property.

(B) “Avigation easement” includes an easement obtained pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 21652.

(2) “CNEL” means community noise equivalent level established pursuant to Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 5000) of Division 2.5 of Title 21 of the California Code of Regulations.

(3) “Noise-sensitive land use” means residential uses, including detached single-family dwellings, multifamily dwellings, highrise apartments or condominiums, mobilehomes, public and private educational facilities, hospitals, convalescent homes, churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship.

(4) “Noise-sensitive project” means a project involving new construction or reconstruction for a planned noise-sensitive land use within an airport’s 65 decibels CNEL or higher noise contour.

(b) If a political subdivision conditions approval of a noise-sensitive project upon the grant of an avigation easement to the owner or operator of an airport, the avigation easement shall be required to be granted to the owner or operator of the airport prior to the issuance of the building permit that allows construction or reconstruction of the noise-sensitive project. The owner or operator of an airport that is granted an avigation easement as a condition for approval of a noise-sensitive project pursuant to this subdivision shall be entitled to immediately record it upon receipt.

(c) An avigation easement granted to the owner or operator of an airport as a condition for approval of a noise-sensitive project shall include a termination clause that operates to terminate the avigation easement if the noise-sensitive project is not built and the permit or any permit extension authorizing construction or reconstruction of the noise-sensitive project has expired or has been revoked.

(d) Within 30 days after expiration or revocation of a permit or permit extension that authorized construction or reconstruction of a noise-sensitive project and was conditioned upon the property owner granting an avigation easement to the owner or operator of an airport, the political subdivision that had issued the permit shall notify the owner or operator of the airport of the expiration or revocation of the permit. Within 90 days after receipt of the notice from the political subdivision, the owner or operator of the airport shall record a notice of termination with the county recorder in which the property is located. Proof of filing of the notice of termination shall be provided to the political subdivision by the owner or operator of the airport within 30 days of recordation.

(e) Notwithstanding Sections 6103 and 27383 of the Government Code, the owner or operator of an airport shall pay all applicable recording fees prescribed by law for the filing of a notice of termination pursuant to this section.

(Amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 382, Sec. 11.5. (SB 194) Effective January 1, 2012.)


Hearings under this article required by the provisions of Sections 21666, 21668, 21668.2, and 21669, or regulations adopted pursuant to those provisions, shall be conducted pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 11500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

(Amended by Stats. 2010, Ch. 491, Sec. 3. (SB 1318) Effective January 1, 2011.)

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