Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Airport Rules Changing 2/14

Busy couple of days here. Everything seems to happen all at once on this beat.

I've written about Saratoga County's ongoing efforts to change some rules at Saratoga County Airport and local glider clubs' concerns about the proposals.

The rule changes are working their way through a committee consisting of representatives from the glider clubs and a slew of government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration. When the county has a set of rules in place, it'll set a public hearing and enact them as a local law.

No public hearing has been set, which is why this item posted to Saratoga County's website last week struck me as odd.

In part:
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE, that effective immediately, no glider or other activities which violate the criteria identified herein will be allowed within the Object Free Areas at the Saratoga County Airport. Assembly, disassembly and actions other than towing the aircraft immediately prior to take off or the removal of the glider immediately after landing must take place within the areas leased by Saratoga Soaring Association and the Adirondack Soaring Group.
I expected this to be a big talking point at yesterday's meeting of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which oversees Saratoga County Airport.

Representatives from both Saratoga Soaring Association and the Adirondack Soaring Group were on hand, but they didn't say anything. The committee didn't address the item at all.

So what's going on?

Greenfield Supervisor Dick Rowland, who chairs the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said the airport advisory isn't technically a rule change. It should have never been allowed. 

Rowland doesn't think there was any malicious intent on behalf of the glider clubs.

He theorized that, at one point in time, one of the previous companies that operated the airport for the county told the glider clubs they were allowed to go on the runway. When new companies took over, they just maintained the status quo.

When the county began to review its rules and regulations last year, the FAA saw what was going on and said the glider clubs couldn't continue to do what they were doing. The advisory, basically, just puts the FAA's message in writing.

It's all in the name of safety, Rowland said.

If I haven't effectively described what the FAA is talking about, let Google Maps fill you in.

View Larger Map

You play the role of the FAA. Should that be allowed near an active runway?

Adirondack Soaring President John Mahony said his club is willing to comply with the new rules. It will mean that the club's tow vehicles will need to install radios and install a beacon light on top. Previously, he said, they just used flashers.

But it'll still mean that the glider clubs will need to walk their planes out one at a time. They can't operate anywhere in the Object Free Areas and basically everywhere outside of those areas is the habitat of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, which is also off-limits.

They have been approved to lease an area at the south end of the airport outside the butterfly habitat, where they can assemble and disassemble planes. The lease has not been signed, Mahony said, as they are waiting for all of the new rules to be enacted.

They have asked the FAA if it'd consider closing a portion of the less-used cross runway and allow the clubs to use that as a staging area. They haven't heard back.

Until next time,


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