FAA Reviews Dangers Near Airports

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The Federal Aviation Administration plans to change its policy on safe flight paths to include the possibility of a pilot's having to fly with one engine, a new FAA proposal states. The encroachment of development around airports has made it difficult for carriers to protect airspace for takeoffs.
     The proposed policy statement also notes that the FAA has the authority to consider the cumulative effects of construction in concentrated areas when evaluating the potential for a hazard to navigation.
     The agency points out that the FAA has the authority to consider the cumulative effects of construction in concentrated areas when evaluating the potential for a hazard to navigation.
     The increase in structures around airports over the past 40 years has increased the risk to safe departures in the event of an engine failure during takeoff.
     "Navigable airspace is being encroached around the country with the net effect of decreasing access for aviation operations. Structures as diverse as microwave towers to office buildings and wind turbines are being built in ever-increasing numbers near many airports," the agency noted in the action.
     The agency is not authorized to deny construction projects, but it can identify obstructions to safe airspace navigation and can issue a Determination of Hazard, which zoning authorities or insurers may consider in issuing permits or insurance for the project. If the project proceeds anyway, alternate routes or climb gradients must be determined.
     In the past, the agency did not factor in emergency procedures, such as the "one engine inoperative" (OEI) problem, when conducting an aeronautical study of the runways. It was considered an economic issue rather than a capacity issue because there was not the level of serious encroachment that has accelerated over recent years.
     Every airline must establish its own unobstructed flight path in the event one engine fails during takeoff. Due to obstructions, this can sometimes only be ensured by off-loading fuel, cargo or passengers.
     As a result of compromised "aviation flexibility" and the "erosion of capacity" noted by many airlines due to the increase in obstructions, the FAA now plans to broaden its policy to include the requirements for emergency engine failure procedures during takeoff.
     The proposed policy change is modeled on the National OEI Pilot Project initiated in 2008, which has been successfully managed at five major airports that had compromised departure paths, according to the agency's statement. The proposed policy change would encourage airport operators, airlines and the community to work together to develop proposals for dedicated OEI surfaces for each critical runway end, which may then be consolidated with the help of the FAA. Existing structures would be "grandfathered," but the proposals would apply to modifications to such structures, the action noted.
     If a large number of dedicated OEI surface proposals are received, the agency plans to give top priority to core or hub airports.
     Comments on the proposed rule are due by June 27.