Court Says FAA Misread Its Own Regs

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A federal court has found that the FAA misread its own regulations during its review of aviation hazards presented by a proposed wind farm off Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the Boston Herald reported on Friday. "The FAA catapulted over the real issues and the analytical work required by its handbook," the court said in its 14-page opinion (PDF). The FAA said last year the Cape Wind project's 130 440-foot-tall towers, in a 25-square-mile area of Nantucket Sound, would present no hazard to air navigation. Opponents to the plan went to court to say the FAA hadn't given enough weight to the impact on VFR flights, and the court agreed. Project proponents said the FAA just didn't do a good enough job of explaining its "no hazard" finding to the court.

In May 2010, the FAA issued a report saying the project would pose no impact on the use of navigable airspace as long as Cape Wind implemented a number of measures to mitigate the turbines' impact on nearby radar facilities. However, the town of Barnstable, Mass., and a group of opponents to the project challenged that opinion, arguing that the FAA "violated its governing statute, misread its own regulations, and arbitrarily and capriciously failed to calculate the dangers posed to local aviation." Managers of GA airports at Barnstable, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard told the court that the "finely balanced airspace over Nantucket Sound is already one of the most congested, foggy, and dangerous airspaces on the eastern seaboard." NATCA said that adding turbines to the area would create a "disaster waiting to happen." The FAA now must review and re-submit its findings in the case.