Press Release: Washington DC, March 6, 2020
Today, the Tuscola Area Airport Authority, the Friends of Tuscola Airport Authority, Inc., and other concerned governmental entities and private citizens caused to be filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia the Initial Brief of Petitioners in the case styled: Tuscola Area Airport Authority, et al. v. Stephen Dickson, Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, Case Numbers 19-1153 and 19-1258.
The case arises out of a request to erect 68 wind turbine generators between 3 and 9 miles north and northwest of the Tuscola Area Airport (KCFS). The airport is served by three instrument approach procedures; (1) an RNAV-GPS Approach for Runway 6, (2) an RNAV-GPS Approach for Runway 24, and (3) a VOR-A Approach. If erected, the wind turbine generators will increase the minimum descent altitude for the VOR-A Approach, will increase the climb gradient for departing aircraft and will require the FAA to suppress radar signals received by the ASR-11 Radar Site in Saginaw, Michigan (MSB) to avoid radar “clutter” (false targets of supposed aircraft dropping off the radar scope) and “target divergence” where the radar becomes confused and believes the aircraft flight path it was tracking is now following the path of reflections from the tips of blades of the wind turbine generators. As a “solution” to the problem, the FAA proposes to suppress the radar signals from primary targets (aircraft without operating transponders) or use the radar site in Flint, Michigan since due to the earth’s spherical shape, the radar antennae will not have radar line of sight (RLS) with aircraft operating at low altitudes in and around the airport and the proposed wind turbine generators. In either case, the FAA’s “solution” is to ignore the problem by suppressing radar services to pilots, according to the Petitioners’ Initial Brief.
In their Initial Brief, the Tuscola Area Airport Authority and the other Petitioners in the case have argued the FAA’s findings that the wind turbine generators would not interfere with radar is arbitrary and capricious and not supported by a reasoned explanation. In their second argument, the Petitioners asserted the wind turbine generators, if constructed, will interfere with a significant volume of traffic flow, actually excluding/restricting VFR operations into the airport and creating a bottleneck of aircraft attempting to enter the airport traffic pattern. As their third argument, the Petitioners assert the FAA could not ignore the economic impact the wind turbine generators will have on the airport along with violating the FAA Sponsor Grant Assurances requiring the airport sponsor to keep navigable airspace free of obstructions. Fourth and finally, the Petitioners argue the FAA placed the incorrect Aeronautical Study Number on the Public Notice inviting comments on the FAA’s aeronautical study concerning the proposed construction of the wind turbine generators. This mistake was brought to the attention of the FAA before it rendered its final decision, but it was ignored.
The Department of Justice represents the FAA Administrator in the case and will file its brief with the Court on or before May 6, 2020. The Petitioners may file a reply brief on or before July 6, 2020. Oral argument before the Court has not been scheduled at this time.
The Petitioners are represented by Alan Armstrong, an experienced aviation lawyer and pilot who practices in Atlanta, Georgia.