Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Just the facts, ma'am

I am a local general aviation pilot, who occasionally generates airplane noise around Harvey Field. I have yet to grasp the difficult reasons for modifying the current runway alignment, but the latest set of misrepresentations, half-truths, and deception that passes for facts in has inspired me to write.

It is true the population of the area has swelled; however the FAA no longer considers it “other than congested” and it is a “congested area.” According to Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.119, this increases the minimum altitude from the misstated 500 feet to 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle, unless landing or taking off.

Further, the airspace over Harvey Field is not considered “free.” Starting at the ground up to 700 feet is “uncontrolled” but at 700 feet (300 feet below the minimum altitude) it becomes controlled “Class-E” airspace with very specific visibility, ceiling, and separation requirements as defined in FAR 91.127. At 6,000 feet, the airspace becomes even more stringently controlled “Class-B” as defined in FAR 91.131, requiring radio communication and approval from the SEATAC controllers.

The writer asserts a half-truth that Kirkland and Seattle are controlled all the way to the ground. They are not. Kirkland has the same controlled airspace as Snohomish starting at 700 feet and then it becomes the more restrictive space at 3,000 to 5,000 feet. Much of Seattle north of downtown is similarly classified.

It is true that part of Seattle does have some controlled airspace starting at the ground. But so does Marysville, Everett, Renton, Bellingham, Mukilteo, Olympia, Lynnwood, Spokane, Oak Harbor, Port Angeles, and Moses Lake! The reason? They all have large airports to which the writer objects! If you want controlled airspace, it comes with “super-sized” airports.

Flight plans are not required for any domestic visual flight, and are primarily designed for search and rescue to locate missing aircraft. Visual flight plans have no bearing on the aircraft being directed by air traffic controllers. The writer’s use of this point is purely a distraction.

Finally, it is a misrepresentation to claim the airport will be super-sized. There is no intention of attracting larger or noisier aircraft. The proposed runway changes REDUCE the useful length of the runway, and increase its distance from hazards.

If the community is expected to make good decisions about a difficult issue, we need to stick with facts.