June 2, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
A lawsuit brought by two Texas cities to change the path of a proposed high-voltage power line could result in flight hazards near the Kimble County Airport in Junction, Texas, say area pilots.
AOPA, responding to the pilots’ concerns, has registered strong opposition to the action by Junction and Kerrville, Texas, to throw out the recommended route and reposition it on higher ground north of the airport. In a letter to a coalition that is working with pilots on the power line approval process, AOPA said that regulators must evaluate any proposed route change for safety and for “any impact that would diminish the utility of the airport.” The case is set to be heard Aug. 2 in Travis County 98th District Court.
The cities are challenging the unanimous decision in January by the Texas Public Utilities Commission to set the route for the power line and associated structures south of the airport, near Interstate 10. Selection of the route followed a two-year process of study and public hearings. The approved route would run from a point just west of Junction to its end point east of Kerrville, and was seen posing no flight hazards.
That would not be the case with the northern route sought by the two cities, said AOPA Vice President of Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn.
“According to local AOPA members, a northerly route would place transmission towers under both the VOR-A and RNAV approaches to the airport, creating safety hazards to aircraft operations,” he said. “While the existing south route has relatively flat terrain, north of the airport terrain rises and would put towers higher than the existing approved route. In 2005, a fatal aircraft accident occurred in that area.”
Dunn set forth AOPA’s position in a May 31 letter of support to the Clear View Alliance, a coalition seeking to minimize the impact of power line construction on natural resources, tourism, and what it describes as “the land-based economy” of central Texas. The group has participated in the review process for the power line and worked closely with local pilots to bring aviation safety concerns before decision makers.
In the letter, Dunn told the group that the Lower Colorado River Authority, the builder of the power line, would be required by federal law to submit a request to the FAA for an airspace study of any new route. The request would be required before construction “to determine if the proposed location would create a hazard to air navigation.”
The utility has said that it hopes to build and energize the power line by December 2013.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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