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Page 128
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 7
I got it.
While the steel towers were large, the lines
themselves could be impossible to see. It
wasn't hard to imagine aircraft on approach
clipping a high-wire line with disastrous con-
sequences. Chances were slim, but it could
happen.
The real show-stopper was that the Federal
Aviation Administration, or more accurately
Bill Gunn with the local Texas Department
of Transportation Aviation Division acting on
behalf of the FAA--an agency always on the
lookout for avoidable aircraft disasters--re-
fused to approve Bird's Nest Airport's preci-
sion instrument approach with LCRA's tow-
ers in the way. This was no trivial matter.
Without precision instrument procedures
at Bird's Nest Airport, landing in inclement
weather was not only dangerous, but forbid-
den by regulation, thereby rendering the air-
port useless for all but fair weather pilots.
Bird's Nest Airport v. LCRA
Six days later I hired a good attorney, Kay
Trostle, to represent the airport in our fight
against LCRA. The plan was to raise a legal ob-
jection and hope to convince LCRA to choose
another route, one that bypassed the airport,
thus allowing the Federal Aviation Adminis-
tration to give me approval for my precision
instrument approach.
We were filing our motion late.
LCRA had filed its application with the Pub-
lic Utilities Commission back in March, eight
months earlier, and the administrative judges
assigned to hear the case were not obliged,
nor inclined, to allow us to intervene, knowing
full well that we'd likely stretch out an already
preposterously long process. Kay quickly
drafted a Late Filed Motion to Intervene, in
which we explained why it took us so long
to speak up--that I'm not a mind reader and
thus had no idea what LCRA had up its sleeve
regarding power lines near the airport--and
she submitted the motion to the PUC.
Earlier I had recounted to Kay an idea Frank
McIllwain and I had been batting around. It
was Frank's idea, really. The issue of towers
too close to an airport had been around for
a while. The telecommunications industry,
for example, had been sprinkling cell tow-
ers across the country for years, and many of
those eyesores sat in the flight path of your
friendly neighborhood airstrip. In Frank's ex-
perience the FAA didn't have the authority to
stop a tower from being built. What they could
do was file a bunch of paperwork letting the
Federal Communications Commission--the
federal agency that regulates telecommuni-
cations--know which towers caused a haz-
ard to aircraft and toss in some foreboding
language about preservation of navigable air-
space and mitigating measures and avoidable
aircraft catastrophes. If the FAA objected, the
FCC typically did likewise. It was reasonable
to assume the same concept worked with
power lines and the Public Utilities Commis-
sion--get the FAA to say they hated the idea
of transmission towers near the airport and
maybe, just maybe, the PUC might convince
LCRA to choose another route.
When I contacted Ben Guttery, Senior