Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Saturday, February 09, 2008
  First it was trees, then flooding, now fraud. What's next?
One of the things that most people don't know about me is that I am an aviation buff. I grew up in a family with two pilots, and even though I had a tendency to puke in little planes (sorry dad!) I spent a fair amount of time hanging out at small airports watching the day-in and day-out operations of civil and small-time commercial aviation. I live about a mile directly off the east end of the airport and watch dozens of flights any given sunny afternoon pass a few hundred feet over my head. My current next door neighbor is also the Harriman-West manager, but he and I tend to talk about lawn mowers and home improvement rather than planes.

I guess what I am trying to say is that while I might have a bias towards the aviation community, I am not talking out of my rear-end when I comment on the latest "gotcha'" NIMBYism going on over around Luce Rd at the west end of the airport. Evidently some people are still mad that they didn't read their deeds when they bought their homes within a few hundred yards of a friggin' runway:
"I can hardly believe that numbers such as 44,000 operations (takeoffs/landings) per year, 120 per day, are still being thrown around as if they were believable," Raymond Bergmann, another Luce Road resident, wrote in a letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle last week.

Spokesmen from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC)said the numbers were correct and said the residents' point was moot because such figures are not considered during the funding application process.
Kudos to Bonnie at the Transcript for getting the proper information about how the airport's safety upgrade funding was determined and knocking down this latest rumor of fraud.

It amazes me that these residents would rather take the chance of having a plane hit a tree and drop flaming on their house than play it safe. The FAA did not determined these rules arbitrarily they are developed based upon real world experience and physics. (Little things like gravity and inertia tend to make plane crashes messy)

The odds are good that there will never be a future serious mishap at Harriman West. Aviation is very safe. But accidents do happen - sometimes with tragic results, and THAT is the real issue - not trees.
Although bogus, I suppose you can fiddle with the figures to come up with any high number you want. Just add to the total all touch and go's at an air show or during flight school. count in all military exercises from the air national guard and count all aircraft practicing approach techniques. Hmmmm we must be up into the thousands by now? 120 per day?.....I find that hard to swallow. Having takin flying lessons myself, I can tell you the friendly skies over HW ain't that crowded. Not once was my flight canceled because of heavy traffic. :~)
I used to fly a Cessna 172 some. I did a lot of touch-and-go landings. I don't see why they shouldn't count as far as figuring the odds of a crash on takeoff. If your engine fails, you're going down, and if it fails soon after takeoff, you generally won't have enough height to turn around and glide in for a reverse runway landing -- you have to go pretty much straight ahead.

If there are trees and structures all over there, you will have a horrific crash.

But if there's open ground, you will probably be fine and even your airplane repairable, as you can glide in for a landing. (Unless you panic, and try to either turn around or to pull up without any power. This sounds implausible, but I flew over a fatal crash at Minuteman Airfield once when the plane in front of me on a touch-and-go cycle lost power, and the pilot tried to pull up, stalled and landed upside-down in a beautiful field.)
Aviation talk. Fun.

Airports that receive federal grant money (Harriman and West got $150k in 2007) are required by FAR Part 77 to "identify and mitigate hazards to navigable airspace at their airport". In the case of H-W, having a 4200 foot runway means that any object penetrating a 100:1 slope within 20,000 feet of the runway (in any direction!) is "potentially" subject to regulation.

In more practical terms, it means that the airport has a regulatory obligation to knock down any growing obstruction (like a tree) that tries to penetrate an imaginary surface that slopes upward from a line at ground level 500 feet off of each end of the runway, up to 750 feet each side, at a 20:1 slope, out another 5000 feet. A 50 foot tree a half mile from the runway and 300 (or even more) feet off centerline is fair game.

The thing is, this regulation doesn't have anything to do with the number of operations an airport has. All that matters is that it is public, and it receives federal funds. It has to comply.

If H-W ever wants to upgrade and get itself a designated instrument runway, more trees will need to come down and some houses will need to go.

Cap'n John
Cap'n John.....Thanks for the info. Progress can be painfull...especially to those that took the gamble. They knew what they were getting into but never thought it would happen. Tough shit, live with it or move!
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