VANCOUVER -- Planes have been taking off and landing at Pearson Field for more than a century, but a plan by the Federal Aviation Administration to impose new airspace restrictions has the airport concerned about being permanently grounded.
The restrictions are an effort by the FAA to deal with complex airspace created by Pearson’s proximity to Portland International Airport.
The new restrictions that were to go into effect October 1st were put on hold for at least 30 days on Wednesday, after the FAA received complaints from pilots and local officials about the plan.
Airport and Vancouver city officials have told the FAA, that the restrictions could cause many aircraft and pilots to go elsewhere, because of delays expected due to the restrictions.
“And that basically puts the airport out of business, and to the general public that means that we’re going to lose about $27 million a year,” said Willy Williamson, Manager of Pearson Field.
State officials estimate Pearson Airfield and Museum generate roughly $27 million for the local economy.
Beyond economic concerns, pilots are concerned the restrictions will actually make flying more risky, because delays in permission to land will have pilots circling over neighborhoods in Northwest Portland and Vancouver.
“I think it’s a safety issue and for traffic coming into this airport, I think without any direction and without any management of how people are supposed to remain outside the airspace, I see a real problem, said Jamie Greene, chief of flight operations and a flight instructor for Pearson’s Aero Maintenance Flight Center.
Local officials are lobbying the FAA to rescind its plan, and instead install an air traffic control tower at Pearson.
“The solution is very simple: you put a tower in here and that mitigates all the airspace concerns. It also mitigates the concerns with the FAA is not being compliant with their own regulations,” said Williamson.
The FAA released a statement Wednesday, saying during the implementation delay, “… the agency will continue to engage stakeholders to understand their concerns. Safety remains the FAA’s top priority."
Portland and Pearson airports have operated with shared airspace for 75 years without a major incident.