Preserving Our Skies

Released on: September 12, 2008, 7:09 am

Press Release Author: By Mike Orkiszewski

Industry: Aerospace

Press Release Summary: It seems everybody wants a piece of the sky.

Press Release Body: September 11 - When people think of disappearing resources, the
airspace above us is not usually considered. But the FAA is actually protecting the
airspace from being eaten away – starting from the ground up.

It seems everybody wants a piece of the sky.
Communities need to build bigger buildings as part of their growth plans. The
communications industry has to erect towers. High fuel prices warrant wind turbines
for energy.

And, of course, there is the aviation community at large. Big commercial airlines,
air taxis, airports, general aviation and helicopters all want to ensure that this
precious resource – airspace – is preserved and protected.

Kevin Haggerty, manager of the ATO's Obstruction Evaluation Service, says it's going
to take four things to manage competing demands for the nation's airspace:
transparency, collaboration, preservation and protection.

“Protection is the number one thing, because we have to ensure safety,” Haggerty
said, emphasizing that development must not encumber navigation and communication
facilities, much less navigable airspace.

The FAA protects airspace by preserving it intact and free from encroachment. But in
order to save what we have, we have to define it, and that’s part of the problem
according to Haggerty.
Unlike land-based modes of transportation, in which miles of highway or railroad
track can be easily tallied, airspace is more difficult to quantify. What’s more,
new technologies are complicating the calculation by increasing aviation demand
where it exists and creating demand where it never existed before.

For example, Required Navigation Performance lets aircraft fly more discrete tracks,
which in theory means they should use less airspace. Demand, however, dictates that
we use that freed airspace by fitting in more tracks. And those tracks can now be
flown at lower altitudes because they are more precise, increasing the need for
airspace closer to the ground.

However, the people who put up buildings, towers and wind turbines generally don’t
understand what’s going on in the sky. They just see planes flying in one direction
or another – and a lot of empty sky in which to build.

To help the public understand how our airspace is structured, and to let them know
what is needed to keep it safe and unencumbered, the FAA is sharing information
electronically. It is also encouraging the use of a common operating system for
people who use the NAS, both on the ground and in the air.

“We have to be able to communicate every aspect of the NAS that we possibly can and
make that transparent to people,” Haggerty said.
By making the system more transparent, fewer surprises are likely to occur.

Surprises are generally not a good thing, especially when it comes to very expensive
projects. Haggerty cites the example of a building in San Diego that had to be
lowered 20 feet after it encroached on airspace needed for operations at the

In the wind turbine industry, performance tax credits are sold as much as four years
ahead of construction. After a company spends money to lease land and buy equipment,
the last thing it wants to hear is that it can’t build because the turbines will
affect a long-range radar well away from the building site.

Collaboration resolves problems before they happen. Haggerty has worked with
Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to establish a Web site with a “stop
light” system for people wanting to erect wind turbines.
“They can put in their lat/long [and] if they are in a green area they won’t affect
radar at all,” Haggerty said. Coordinates giving a yellow light mean radar might be
affected, but mitigating solutions could exist. A red light indicates radar
operation will certainly be affected.

What’s important is that stakeholders with competing demands come together to
develop mutually acceptable solutions that allow for construction without
diminishing the NAS.
Building partnerships is important.

After all, the FAA doesn’t have the authority to protect airspace directly. Unless
encroachment is specifically covered under an airport improvement program, the
agency traditionally has relied on states to tell their citizens what they can or
cannot do.

But by increasing public airspace awareness through transparency, collaboration can
then be used to develop strategies that will ultimately preserve and protect the
national airspace system.
To help make that happen, the FAA is hosting a conference Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 in Las
Vegas, Nev. Competition for the Sky 2008 will bring together federal, state and
local authorities, commercial and private NAS users, and the military, to provide
insight and guidance on NAS operations and requirements.

The first full day of the conference features discussion related to obstruction
marking and lighting, and also the effect of wind turbines on long range radars. The
second day will focus on airport encroachment and zoning. The final day will be
devoted to telecommunications and protecting the NAS.

For more information and to register, please go to

Web Site:

Contact Details: Orville Wright Bldg. (FOB10A)
FAA National Headquarters
800 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC

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