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105 Obstruction identification and management is only one of many responsibilities that airport sponsors and staff face in airport management. Because of the range of regulations, criteria, and considerations that encompass this task, implementation of obstruction miti- gation measures can place a substantial demand on the time, resources, and expertise of airport professionals. The purpose of this guidebook is to identify best available techniques and strategies for addressing obstruction management tasks at airports of all sizes. During the course of NCHRP Project 09-16 research, interviews conducted with aviation and non- aviation industry stakeholders have highlighted not only challenges, but also best practices in the obstruction management field. These best practices (or ideas) are summarized at the end of this chapter. A comprehensive, proactive airport obstruction management program involves the following integral elements: â¢ An appropriate level of airport strategic and operational planning â¢ Use of the best available resources for data collection and analysis â¢ Innovative and solution-oriented mitigation measures â¢ Community and stakeholder engagement before, during, and after the implementation of obstruction management measures â¢ Continued monitoring of program performance to achieve the goal of protecting the airport from encroachment 9.1 Setting Airport Planning and Operational Goals All criteria related to managing airspace obstructions tie into and support overall airport design and operational characteristics. Comprehensive airport obstruction management begins with proactive and realistic facility planning. Planning for an airportâs ultimate future design and functionality should not be focused on making the facility as big and complex as it can be. Planning should be focused on designing the best airport that the community can and will support. One of the roles of the airport is to support its community and connect it to the overall NAS. Identifying the role of the airport in the community requires a clear understanding of the airportâs present conditions and limitations and engaging with the process stakehold- ers and public within the airportâs and neighboring communities and the FAA. Community and stakeholder engagement in the airport planning process can be carried out as a part of a formal update of the airport master plan or in the course of targeted outreach to the com- munity by the airportâs management. Engagement of the community is a critical element C H A P T E R 9 Putting It All Together
106 Best Practices for Airport Obstruction Management Guidebook of creating community buy-in for future obstruction management activities. This type of engagement could be the following: â¢ Educating the community on the basics of airport operations and regulatory obligations â¢ Educating the community on the airportâs value and the important benefits of airport protection â¢ Establishing a baseline community goal for the facility â¢ Engaging business and decision-maker stakeholders by clarifying the economic impact and logistical role of the airport â¢ Reaching an understanding on airport-specific issues that the community may be sensitive to, such as noise, environmental protection, or social justice This element of the process is scalable and as simple or comprehensive as the airport sponsor wants it to be. It can include any issueâfrom considering the sufficiency of existing instrument procedures and runway capabilities to evaluation of the airportâs ability to support future air carrier service (including the resulting OEI requirements observed by the air carriers). 9.2 Identifying Applicable Criteria Identifying the role of the airport in the community helps the airport sponsor to identify all applicable airspace criteria and imaginary surfaces that would apply under current and ultimate planning conditions. As a part of surface and criteria identification, the airport sponsor should focus not only on federal obstruction evaluation criteria but also the applicability of any state criteria (for example, state airport licensing standards). When determining what criteria should be considered critical or baseline, the airport sponsor should strongly consider the results of airport planning engagement with the community. This is important because maintaining surfaces clear of obstructions depends heavily on the buy-in and will of nonairport stakeholders. 9.3 Collecting and Analyzing Data Through identifying applicable criteria and setting the airport planning baseline and ultimate planning scenario, the airport sponsor can identify what obstruction data exist and apply to the obstruction management program, determine the types of obstruction data that will need to be collected, identify appropriate data collection sources and methodology, and (if necessary) generate the project scope for an obstruction survey, data collection, processing, and analysis. Comprehensive airport obstruction management data collection serves several purposes: â¢ It provides the baseline picture for existing obstruction conditions â¢ It allows the airport to review the data maintained by the FAA to identify outdated data points and data gaps â¢ Through data aggregation, it highlights problem geographical areas and surfaces that may require special consideration and attention during mitigation This stage in the process also serves as the most appropriate opportunity to develop and apply custom and innovative methods of data evaluation, such as the use of airspace evaluation software applications or the development of an airspace composite map. Any of the innovative resources developed at this point can be utilized not only for airspace analysis of the collected data but also for continued monitoring and analysis of future proposals that fall within the lateral confines of the critical airport surfaces. When developing tools and applications for air- space analysis and monitoring, all applicable obstruction evaluation and design surfaces should
Putting It All Together 107 be modeled for the best-case scenario, but only those surfaces identified as critical for the existing and ultimate planning conditions should be utilized for the purposes of mitigation plan devel- opment. Refer to Chapter 3 of this report for information on how to determine what surfaces should be deemed critical for existing and ultimate airport operational and planning conditions. 9.4 Obstruction Mitigation Through Consensus Initial engagement with the community (discussed in Section 9.1) should offer airport staff a level of engagement with stakeholders that will carry over into mitigation planning and implementation. Although the focus of the airport sponsor should be on the development of a proactive obstruction management program, there are circumstances that demand prompt obstruction management actions. If, through data collection, any imminent safety or substantial operational impacts are identified, such impacts should be addressed as a priority through any regulatory means available. The mitigation of those impacts that are not required to be addressed immediately, as dis- cussed above, can be approached through a consensus-driven process. The airport should evalu- ate areas that have the potential to result in future impacts on critical surfaces, such as tracts of undeveloped land or areas of heavy vegetation, and employ a consensus-oriented approach to reach an agreement with the property owners on potential obstruction prevention. When seeking to engage nonairport stakeholders in proactive airport obstruction manage- ment, the airport staff should focus on a mutual gains approach and try to understand the stake- holdersâ underlying goals and needs. Those needs should be respected, and the airport should attempt to help the stakeholders reach those goals through any innovative methods available, as opposed to relying on the rule of law or governmental regulations. For example, an airport may offer to replace a tree that impacts a critical airspace surface with similar vegetation that would grow to a lower height (below critical airspace surfaces) at maturity, in cases where a home- owner is not amenable to having the vegetation removed. As another example, the airport may work with a property developer and community decision-makers to obtain or transfer a parcelâs development rights to keep the structure height to a level below a critical surface. Understand- ing and addressing the core concerns of the stakeholders is the underpinning of obstruction mitigation in proactive airport obstruction management. 9.5 Creating the Implementation Framework and Continuing Engagement When the airport has undertaken a stakeholder engagement process, to sustain the gains made during the process and subsequent obstruction mitigation actions, the airport should stay engaged with the process participants and enlist the support of the local planning and zoning staff in obstruction management matters. If the framework for zoning exists at the state level, the airport can solidify its baseline position by promoting the establishment and administration of airport protection zoning regulations. Because obstruction management needs and regulatory framework are subject to change, it is necessary to proactively inform the local decision-makers and staff and keep the enforcement mechanisms up-to-date. However, whether an airport obstruction zoning ordinance is available or not, providing assistance to local government staff charged with review and approval of development propos- als builds goodwill between the stakeholders and provides the airport with advance notice of any potential obstruction issues. Airports can foster such relationships in a number of different ways, the most practical of which is providing local government staff with obstruction analysis
108 Best Practices for Airport Obstruction Management Guidebook technical assistance and guidance. Offering local government shared use of technical resources such as GIS data has similar benefits. Attention to local development proposals can also be maintained through following the business conducted by the local planning advisory boards and elected bodies. This approach is useful if the information related to proposed developments is not provided by the local planning/zoning staff. However, at that stage in the development approval process, the airport will likely have to reactively address any potential obstruction management issues. Another purpose of periodic and consistent engagement with obstruction management pro- cess stakeholders is to prevent the loss of engagement gains due to organizational attrition, staff turnover, and changes in stakeholder needs and focus. As a part of that effort, beyond local government staff engagement, the airport should conduct periodic educational and engagement outreach to the key stakeholders, such as the business, development, and tall structure/crane community. 9.6 Monitoring and Measuring Program Performance Any programmatic approach to airport obstruction management should periodically evalu- ate performance of the program and identify necessary adjustments. For example, the airport may evaluate the programâs success by how frequently the airport has to engage in reactive obstruction management or how well the airport sponsor is able to maintain established base- line surfaces clear of obstructions. In addition to ongoing monitoring of the airport environs and program performance, the airport should continue to keep close watch on changes to federal and state airport and airspace criteria. Airport staff should monitor FAA resources for information on new procedures being developed for the airport to ensure that the program stays aligned with airport requirements and that the goals and direction of the airport remain aligned with community expectations. As a part of proactive airport obstruction management, the implementation of the program should be dynamic. The airport sponsor may elect to re-evaluate and reshape the program during any of the discussed stages as a result of changing airport or community needs, technology advances, or other community and economic drivers. 9.7 Guidance from Peers and Stakeholders During the course of ACRP Project 09-16 research, airport peers and nonairport stakeholders contributed key guidance and suggested best practices to facilitate the obstruction management process in the areas of airport planning, obstruction evaluation, obstruction mitigation, and coordination related to obstruction management. These suggestions and practices represent the experiences of the diverse stakeholder group involved in airport obstruction management mat- ters and areas related to them (e.g., planning, land development, data collection, etc.) While not all the suggestions will apply to all airports, airports of all sizes may find something beneficial in the thoughts outlined herein. Airport Planning â¢ Step outside and look around! Be aware of the airportâs environs on a regular basis to detect any potential or urgent obstruction issues that were not flagged through the FAA obstruction evaluation information sources (such as the OE/AAA site). â¢ Protect the airportâs future and ultimate development scenarios and prevent piecemeal encroachment.
Putting It All Together 109 â¢ Coordination with local governments should be a two-way street. When conducting airport planning and development activities, consider the effect they will have on the surrounding environs. All stakeholders deserve a level playing field! â¢ Stay realistic about the airportâs future needs. When planning runway extensions, consider the extensionâs need and purpose to avoid a disconnect between the airportâs concept and extension need. â¢ Carry out regular airport airspace surveys to stay ahead of the issues and monitor potentially problematic areas. Verify collected data against the data in the FAA DOF, correct discrepan- cies, and follow up to ensure that the discrepancies have been addressed by the agency. â¢ Develop and integrate critical airspace information into local government GIS resources, which would potentially highlight airport coordination needs to local planning staff because they serve as the first line of contact with development entities. Obstruction Evaluation â¢ Verify data fidelity, accurately assess obstructions, and define those obstructions as specific points instead of a broad area, including the obstacleâs AGL height. â¢ Verify the accuracy of data in the airportâs DOF (available from the FAA) because obsolete data may drive the procedureâs design, unnecessarily constraining the airport. Obstruction Mitigation â¢ Consider using vegetation management practices, such as aerial spraying to control emerging vegetation or introducing certain vegetative species to prevent possible brush or tree growth. â¢ Be mindful of potential archaeological or historical resource coordination required during obstruction removal. Be familiar with all aspects of the airportâs environment. â¢ Be cognizant of state and local regulations that may affect the ability to remove or mitigate obstacles. Obstruction Management Outreach â¢ Participate in peer-to-peer exchanges and regional organizations to stay ahead of and be informed about obstruction management and airspace issues. â¢ Develop and regularly hold workshops for developers, planning and zoning staff, and crane operators to discuss airspace protection, encroachment issues, and permitting requirements. The initial invitee list can include those in the airport vicinity that have previously submitted obstruction evaluation studies with the FAA. â¢ Identify and foster supportive and educational relationships with key stakeholders in the com- munity, informing them about aviation safety, as well as the location and nature of obstruc- tion impacts on the airport. Avoid a bureaucratic or authoritarian approach, which prevents consensus building. â¢ When dealing with the public, be proactive and provide timely information but avoid involv- ing the public in the process until all possible outcomes are clear in order to give the public correct information the first time. â¢ Consider the airportâs future plans for development when evaluating the potential impact of a developerâs plan. â¢ Use the airportâs economic impact study (if it is available) to emphasize the airportâs fiscal impact on the community in discussions of obstructions affecting airport capacity. â¢ Establish relationships with FAA Airports district office staff and the FAA OEG specialist responsible for the airport. Facilitate information flow between the two parts of the agency to promote the best outcome for the airport.
110 Best Practices for Airport Obstruction Management Guidebook â¢ Flight track software can be useful in making specific cases for obstruction removal related to aviation safety based on actual flight patterns into and out of the airport. â¢ Signs can be used in the airportâs vicinity to warn the general public about the possible impacts their activity (such as operating a recreational unmanned aerial system) can have on flight safety. â¢ Seeing is believing! Use visual aidsâelectronic or otherwiseâto communicate complex issues to stakeholders. Develop outreach materials and guidance that are easily understood and light on terminology and technical jargon. â¢ When discussing obstruction management with planning and zoning staff, prepare the message in advance to customize it to the correct audience and rely on concepts instead of technical jargon to convey the message. â¢ Keep a record of what stakeholders were contacted and where they come from to demonstrate inclusive engagement to decision-makers. â¢ When working with the general public, tell a compelling story, showing the benefits and tradeoffs, and be respectful of the audienceâs motivation. â¢ Conduct informal staff-level discussions with planning and zoning staff regarding future airport plans, issues, and concerns. Set expectations outright and show planners what chal- lenges the airport is trying to overcome. â¢ Make sure that stakeholders know what each other is doing and what challenges each must address. Early problem identification is key, as well as the early identification of key stakeholders. â¢ Work with the Urban Land Institute to reach major developers and with regional and district planning councils to educate stakeholders and work toward easier consensus building. â¢ When communicating with developers regarding airport impacts, airports should not rely strictly on regulatory authority to reach consensus, but communicate real, measurable impacts (e.g., runway length constraints, reduced airport utility, etc.)