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Connecticut lawmakers face votes on runway closure, unmarked towersConnecticut lawmakers face votes on runway closure, unmarked towers

AOPA is urging members in Connecticut to contact their state legislators to urge defeat of legislation that would decrease the safety of flight operations at Tweed-New Haven Airport with the permanent closing of a runway pilots rely on during crosswind conditions.

AOPA also encourages members to urge support for a bill that would require the marking of certain towers that are not regulated by the FAA but have been shown to create collision risks for pilots.

AOPA urged a legislative committee to reject a provision that would force the permanent closing of Tweed-New Haven Airport’s Runway 14/32, a safe haven for takeoff and landing operations when wind conditions are unfavorable for using the main Runway 02/20.

Closing the runway for good—it is temporarily shut down but under FAA review for reopening, AOPA noted—was included as a provision of legislation to allow community solar projects to be established at Connecticut airports.

Although AOPA supports development of airport-compatible solar technology, the greater level of safety provided by a crosswind runway is crucial, and conforms with FAA recommendations for airports, AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins noted in a March 15 letter urging the legislature’s Joint Committee on Energy and Technology to strike the runway-closure provision.

AOPA supports another of the bill’s provisions: Removing a statutory restriction limiting the main runway’s length to 5,000 feet.

Removing the restriction would be “an important step toward future development” of Tweed-New Haven Airport, Collins said.

‘Near-invisible killers’

AOPA has also submitted a memorandum to lawmakers urging passage of a bill that would require the marking of the temporary towers that are set up on sites being evaluated as a site for a wind-energy installation but can be hazards to aviation. The bill was approved by the Transportation Committee on March 23.

“The proliferation of Meteorological Evaluation Towers (MET) across the country poses a significant safety hazard to many types of aeronautical operations,” the memorandum notes. “These towers are very difficult to see and in certain weather conditions (e.g., a background of snow cover or lightcolored surface), are virtually invisible to the naked-eye. Those operations that are at greatest risk of collision with MET towers include agricultural, law enforcement, emergency services, wildlife management, and flight training.”

To familiarize lawmakers with the issue, AOPA explained that in 2011, the FAA urged the voluntary marking of towers that rise to less than 200 feet agl in accordance with FAA guidelines for the marking and lighting of obstructions.

The National Transportation Safety Board has also weighed in on the MET problem, issuing two Safety Alerts and encouraging states to require the towers be marked and registered.

“Since that time, more than a dozen states have passed laws enacting rules and regulations for the conspicuous marking of these near invisible killers,” AOPA’s memorandum says.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, State Legislation, Airport Advocacy

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