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“The LRAA is interested in getting the maximum amount of utilization out of the airport,” says Bob Hawley, a Kingsley resident and retired Air Force pilot. “The community wants to protect the trees. Somewhere in between is the solution.”
Hawley believes the LRAA did itself a disservice by presenting the tree trimming as the only option to remove obstructions. Hawley says the FAA is concerned about departure surfaces, but they don’t automatically have the right to clear them or cut things down. Hawley says the LRAA probably would prefer the FAA choose to get rid of the trees because it would attract more air traffic to Bowman Field.
One voice that has been absent so far from this debate are the people who make the final decisions. “The airport authority has had two meetings,” Hayman says. “They blame this on the FAA, but the FAA was not there to question. So, twice they’ve had meetings without the most important people there to question.”
LRAA spokesperson Burke says nobody in the Louisville FAA office deals with airspace issues. Councilman Owen offered to pay for an FAA representative to visit Louisville from New York but the federal agency declined. The Highlander did talk to Arlene Salac, an FAA spokesperson, who forwarded information on TERPs, but did not comment on the Bowman Field controversy. In fact, the only statement from the FAA on the matter came in a Jan. 3 Courier-Journal article where Winsome Lenfert, manager of the airports division in the FAA’s southern regional office in Atlanta, defended the LRAA’s safety plan, saying that without it Bowman Field would become almost unusable.
Lenfert told the Courier that trees obstructing one approach forced the closure last year of one runway on nights when there was poor visibility from inclement weather. Lenfert also said that the FAA recently granted a waiver to Bowman so it could keep using a second runway during those conditions, despite encroachment by a tree into protected airspace.
Hayman says Seneca Gardens and Kingsley residents have no problem with the FAA promoting safety at Bowman Field or even with the airport making a profit. But he doesn’t think it should come at the cost of the homeowners’ quality of life and property values. “The scale is important,” he adds. “If we know how big the airspace is, the number of trees involved, we know the cost to the community. But they don’t tell us that because it’s better for them not to let people know how big this is. That’s why I’m going to go count these trees. There is an issue of trust here.”