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But the LRAA plan does allow some trees to be taller than others. The ones closer to the airport on Pee Wee Reese Road might be trimmed as low as 23 feet, but those closer to Bardstown Road might be allowed to grow up to 60 feet. The tragedy, Hayman says, is that in some cases the trees will be smaller than the man-made objects around them. “The airplane hangar (at Bowman Field) looks like it’s 35, 40 feet. That stays,” Hayman says. “The billboard down there at Taylorsville Road, that stays even though it looks like it intrudes into the airspace. If they are going to make an exception for a 35-, 40-foot hangar why can’t they make an exception for a tree that is not even as high as the hangar?”
To make sure their interests are represented, some of the disgruntled Seneca Gardens and Kingsley residents are working with two lawyers, Tom Fitzgerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, and private attorney Leslie Barras. Barras says the residents are experiencing something that is going on around regional airports all over the nation when the TERPs rules are triggered.
So far, all the FAA has authorized is an obstruction study, which will list the number of obstructions in the airspace. After that there will be an environmental study and time for community input before the FAA weighs its options. Barras says the tree-cutting is not a foregone conclusion: “It’s a balance, and I think the FAA rules recognize that there is a balance. They want to promote safety and at the same time recognize that there is a community quality of life. This is only the beginning of a long process.”
There are some options to the tree-cutting plan. Ideally, Barras would like the LRAA to ask for an FAA exemption to the rules. Just last year, the agency granted United Parcel Service and FedEx pilots an exemption from the rest of the rules that apply to their commercial counterparts.
Barras say historic preservation issues may also come into play. Bowman Field, which was established in 1919, is one of the oldest continually operating airports in North America. Three of the 17 buildings on the 426-acre airport are on the National Register of Historic Places – the Administration Building, the Curtiss Flying Service Hangar and the Army Air Corps Hangar. Barras suggests that some of the neighborhoods or landscape around the airport may also be eligible for historic preservation.
Angela Burton, a Seneca Gardens resident who has also been a leading opponent of the LRAA proposal, has another option – scaling back the service at Bowman Field, which is a reliever facility for Louisville International Airport. Burton says the TERPs come into play because Bowman is seeing more jet traffic. At the meeting held by Councilman Owen on Jan. 19, Burton asked LRAA Executive Director Charles T. “Skip” Miller if the LRAA had considered downgrading the flights at Bowman, which currently loses $1 million annually. Miller responded that the LRAA would keep the status quo because as a reliever airport Bowman has benefits beyond the profit-loss margin. Miller estimates that the airport pumps $8 million annually into the local economy.
Bowman Field does not keep records of the number of aircraft that use GPS for landings or departures at the airport. Miller says the FAA keeps those figures, but he didn’t have them at hand. According to the Seneca Gardens and Kingsley residents who filed a Freedom of Information Act request, only 12.1 percent of the aircraft at Bowman used instrument-guided landing last year. This reinforces the view that the LRAA is preparing for increased corporate jet traffic since those aircraft are more likely to use the up-to-date technology.