The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has launched a campaign to secure passage this year of the Missouri Airport Protection Act. The legislation, similar to AOPA-supported laws in 25 other states, would protect the state's airports from new communications towers and other obstructions.
"Most people believe that FAA regulations prevent a tower from endangering an airport. They don't," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president for regional affairs. "The FAA can't stop someone from building an obstruction. State law and local zoning ordinances are the only regulations with teeth."
The Missouri Airport Protection Act, introduced as state Senate Bill 324 and House Bill 436, would create a state permit process for those communities that don't already have airport protection zoning regulations in place.
Under the legislation, the Missouri Department of Transportation could prevent the construction of a tower if it determined it would significantly affect a nearby airport.
In the past two weeks, AOPA Regional Representative Bob Dickens has testified in favor of the bill before House and Senate committees of the Missouri legislature. On Valentine's Day, AOPA hosted a reception for 68 Missouri state legislators to lobby for the bill.
Not surprisingly, the telecommunications industry is opposing the bill with a well-financed campaign. "They may have the money, but we have the people," said Dickens.
The bill would prevent companies from constructing towers that could affect airport operations. Even if a proposed tower isn't a hazard to VFR (visual) operations, it can still affect the utility of an airport. That's because a new tower can force the FAA to raise instrument approach minimums, making the airport less useful in inclement weather.
"The Missouri Airport Protection Act is designed to ensure safety and to protect the public dollars invested in the state's airports," said Dunn. "AOPA will continue its fight in all states to ensure that our airports are protected from new obstructions to navigation."
The Missouri Pilots Association and the Missouri-based U.S. Pilots Association are working with AOPA for passage of the bill.
The 365,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are more than 6,500 Missouri pilots.