FAA Action Spurs Debate

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Airport Manager Protests IFR Approach Closure...

The manager of a private airport in Texas says the FAA was out of line when it cancelled all eight IFR approaches to his field as of Feb. 8, cutting traffic by one-third. Woody Lesikar, of West Houston Airport, about 13 miles west of Houston, said local FAA officials allowed him inadequate time to address their concerns and refused his request for a 90-day extension. The FAA gave him one month to cut down trees to meet obstacle-height restrictions, Lesikar said, but those trees are on private property. "I can't go on private property and start cutting down trees," said Lesikar. Bill Shumann, an FAA spokesman in Washington, D.C., told AVweb that Lesikar was first told to cut the trees in April 2001. "We have been working with Mr. Lesikar for years with the trees at both ends of the runway," Shumann said. The action is not a result of any recent revisions in FAA policy, he added, just part of the FAA's ongoing flight safety program. West Houston Airport is home to 300 aircraft, and Lesikar said some of the pilots are upset and ready to take the FAA to court. "We don't have any fractional jets or turboprops [operating here] anymore," he said.

...And FAA Says Standards Must Be Upheld

Lesikar said two other Houston-area airports recently had IFR approaches cancelled and he estimates at least 200 private, public-access airports with instrument approaches are also at risk nationwide. "When GA aircraft have to fly IFR into the major airports because they don't have other small airports to fly IFR into, that's when you will hear some squawking by the airlines," Lesikar said. FAA spokesman Shumann said the FAA is just doing its job. "There is no national campaign to end IFR approaches at small airports," he said. "There are standards that any IFR approach must meet." Lesikar also said that the FAA's actions taken in the name of safety might instead put pilots at risk. To reach West Houston Airport in IMC, some pilots shoot the instrument approach at a nearby airport and then "scud run" under the cloud deck to West Houston, he said. Lesikar added that he's also upset that the FAA did not communicate with him about closing the approaches. A NOTAM was issued Feb. 8 and Lesikar said he found out about it from a pilot who received the NOTAM while filing a flight plan from Memphis. "They [FAA] didn't call me. They just did it," he said.