Preventing Airspace Restrictions on Pearson Field

Preventing Airspace Restrictions on Pearson Field

"Pearson Field 1" by John Kloepper. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Overview

With little notice, Federal Aviation Administration officials proposed restricting airspace at Vancouver’s historic Pearson Field, which could have resulted in significant flight delays and safety issues. Vancouver called in CFM, which rallied congressional support, forced a public airing of the proposal and ultimately led to the restrictions being dropped

Challenge

On September 20, 2012, Vancouver and local pilots were formally notified of a new FAA regulation that would significantly change aircraft access in shared airspace between Vancouver’s Pearson Field and Portland International Airport. The plan was to go into effect in just 10 days after the notice.

The FAA wanted to impose an 8-mile-long, 1-mile-wide and 2,100-feet-high airspace restriction, dubbed the "Pearson Box." With implementation of the Pearson Box, departing aircraft would have been delayed up to 30 minutes until Portland International Airport controllers created a sufficient operational window to allow takeoffs. Delays would have an impact for planes landing and taking off in Portland.

These delays could have caused commercial airport operations and other tenants to depart Pearson Field, increasing operating deficits and ultimately forcing its closure. Pearson is the only remaining general aviation airport in Southwest Washington with an instrument approach.

Approach

CFM worked closely with city officials, airport stakeholders, the Port of Portland and the Washington and Oregon congressional delegations to provide information on the FAA action and advocate for an immediate delay of the Pearson Box. CFM coordinated conference calls and multiple contacts with FAA headquarters in DC to ensure concerns were elevated to the highest level. Washington Senator Patty Murray agreed to lead the effort, which prompted FAA to ask an expert advisory panel to assess Pearson Field issues and recommend a path forward.

Result

In December 2012, the FAA review panel convened in Vancouver. The FAA sent its most senior staff to facilitate the discussion and provide expert counsel. At CFM’s insistence, the panel also included local stakeholders – Pearson pilots, Vancouver city staff and the Port of Portland. Ultimately, the panel threw out the Pearson Box plan and suggested minor communications improvements to allow continued operations of Pearson.