Saturday, June 11, 2016

Open letter to the City of Prescott: Ernest A. Love Field Airport (KPRC)

By Paul Thill  

Our homes in the Golf Links subdivision are approximately one mile from the main runway at Prescott’s Ernest A. Love Field airport. Let’s be clear upfront: we were all familiar with the airport-related activity when we purchased our homes and we accepted the existing air-traffic.

The problem: the Prescott Airport is governed by a “Voluntary Noise Abatement” policy, which requires an airplane to be stabilized at 1,000 feet and a helicopter to be stabilized at 500 feet before overflying residential areas. Unfortunately these “voluntary” noise abatement suggestions are not working as intended.

The solution: “Mandatory Noise Abatement Measures” should be put into effect along specifically established flight paths and these flight paths should be prescribed by VOR – omnidirectional range radio beacons. Moreover, the ceilings for aircraft should be raised. These changes are inexpensive for the City to put in place and they are supportive of the long-term growth of the airport.

More specifically, Prescott is the fourth busiest airport in Arizona and the 37th busiest in the nation, with a total of 261,583 aircraft and helicopter operations in 2013 or an average 717 per day. The vast majority of the take-off procedures from the Prescott Airport are to the southwest, with the tower then instructing a pilot to “maintain heading to Highway 89 and then come crosswind and then downwind.”

The City of Prescott, which is the owner and operator of the Prescott Airport, recently modified the take-off procedures to allow aircraft to be airborne sooner, which has had the unintended consequence of adding to the flight activity directly above our neighborhood. In other words, instead of completing the required heading to Highway 89, some pilots are now turning out early during take-off and fly directly south over our neighborhood before stabilizing the airplane. The resulting “downwind” portion of the take-off procedure tends to vary greatly depending on the pilot, with some flying close-in over our homes (where they should not be) and others flying further south over Highway 89A (where they should be). Since the take-off is a relatively dangerous phase of flight, we are seriously concerned with this practice of taking a “short cut” over our neighborhood. The majority of these single-engine flights are “touch and go” take-offs and landings for training purposes, which makes us particularly concerned with our safety.

Clearly, it’s time to install VOR beacons at the corner of Highway 89 and Highway 89A, specifically directing “downwind” traffic around that intersection along the alignment of Highway 89A. The same instructions ought to hold for the “downwind” legs in the northeasterly and crosswind runway operations. These VOR-guided patterns will in the future curtail any misinterpretation of the proper flight path along Highway 89A, while keeping flight activity over surface roads where it belongs. Flying VOR would take the Prescott Airport into the 21st century from a technology standpoint and would take the guesswork out of circumnavigating the airport.

Furthermore, increasing the ceiling for fixed-wing aircraft to 1,500 feet would better protect the surrounding neighborhoods – with regard to both safety and noise abatement.

Residential and commercial development is encroaching on the Airport and the time has come for the city to address flight paths in a more specific and organized fashion. Case-in-point: the city recently annexed hundreds of acres to the west of the airport; also, in the Granite Dells subdivision, homes are being constructed at a dynamic pace near the south end of the airport with a total of 800 homes to be added. With this increase in development it simply makes sense for the city to unequivocally delineate flight paths allowing for orderly development below and safe flight procedures above. Therefore, we request that the city bring an end to the “Voluntary Noise Abatement” policy by instituting “Mandatory Noise Abatement Measures” governed by

VOR, with meaningful attendant penalties for infractions.

When the Golf Links subdivision was conceived by the city in the early nineties, promises were made to the buyers of the lots that the airport will be “quiet” between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with an exception for “Emergency” operations. Unfortunately night-time activity has recently increased at the airport, with helicopters often hovering for lengthy periods during early morning hours. We ask the City of Prescott to limit flight activities to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., with severe penalties for infractions – except in the case of a bona-fide emergency. Safety concerns are multiplied because the tower is not staffed or supervised by the FAA between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Finally, flight activity involving helicopters has increased during the past two years and even on-airport hangar users have voiced concerns regarding the very invasive noise from helicopters hovering in-place. We invite the city to come up with a plan to restrict helicopter-hovering to the north boundaries of the airport in order to protect the safety of everybody on and away from the airport and to reduce the invasive noise. Also, we request that the current 500-foot ceiling for helicopters be raised to 1,000 feet in order to help curtail this noise.

The bottom line: over the years those of us living in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport have had meetings with several airport managers requesting changes and a clear definition of flight path activities, but no substantive changes have been forthcoming. “Mandatory Noise Abatement Measures” governed by VOR and an increase in the ceiling for aircraft are good for the long term growth of the airport and they are good for the safety of the surrounding neighborhoods. They would provide us with a win-win result. Prescott and Prescott’s Airport are deserving of the improved technologies of the 21st Century and the attendant improvements in airport operation. Let’s make the pilot’s life easier and our neighborhoods safer and more livable.

Paul Thill is a homeowner and resident of the Golf Links subdivision in Prescott.

Original article can be found here:

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