The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) today announced that Newport State Airport’s Runway 4 will be temporarily “displaced” or shortened by 499 feet. Preliminary airspace analysis findings in 2020 suggested a reduction of runway length of 1000 feet or more may be needed but runway displacement designs were able to mitigate the reduction to less than half that length. The reduction to the runway length at Newport State Airport is the result of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements to mitigate hazards to ensure pilots have adequate takeoff and landing clearance and to make certain that pilots have adequate room to avoid collisions with growing trees surrounding the airport.
Although the State of Rhode Island recently prevailed in a Superior Court case affirming that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is within its rights to address airspace safety hazards, the presiding judge has thus far declined to lift an injunction related to the growing trees of the litigants in Newport and Westerly, where runways have already been displaced by more than 900 feet.
RIAC continues to urge the Rhode Island General Assembly to approve “Preservation of Safe Airspace” legislation, S.0259 and H.6067, to address airspace obstructions by clarifying state law as consistent with federal law, while improving airspace protection coordination among local, state and federal jurisdictions for publicly owned airports.
Under federal law, when obstructions threatening safe airspace are encountered the FAA funds procurement of aerial easements. Some property owners may not want to accept the payment for the tree removal which at some point, if not mitigated through the States Law or the local jurisdiction zoning laws, results in temporarily shortening the runway length until such time when the trees can be cut that got in the flying path of aircrafts. Although many property owners have accepted the payment authorized by the FAA and facilitated the continued access to the runways in a manner the aircrafts has had for decades, , some property owners have filed suit protecting their overgrown trees that threaten the safety of flying public, resulting in more than five years of ongoing litigation resulting in a court ordered injunction that has limited the State’s ability to take action while airspace-obstructing trees have continued to grow.
The Preservation of Safe Airspace bills are intended to clarify state law as consistent with federal law and help foster good faith negotiations to provide reasonable compensation to neighboring landowners and address local airspace obstructions threatening public safety and continued airport operations. The bill also affirms existing federal definitions of “Approach, approach zone,” and “approaches” as consistent with definitions of airport land and airspace as set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration as stated in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 77 (“Safe, Efficient Use, and Preservation of the Navigable Airspace.
About RIAC: The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) was formed on December 9, 1992 as a semi-autonomous subsidiary of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to operate and maintain the state’s airport system. The powers of the corporation are vested in its seven-member board of directors, all of whom are appointed by the governor. The Rhode Island Airport Corporation is responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the six state-owned airports; and the supervision of all civil airports, landing areas, navigation facilities, air schools and flying clubs. In addition to T. F. Green Airport, RIAC is responsible for five general aviation airports throughout the state: Block Island, Newport, North Central, Quonset and Westerly. https://www.pvdairport.com/