Proposed reliever faces resistance

 - February 7, 2007, 9:30 AM

The FAA has determined that a proposed privately funded business aviation airport west of Houston is “objectionable” because it would create overlapping traffic patterns with existing airports, including some private strips and the Class B airspace surrounding George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). Still, developer Ron Henriksen of Houston vowed last month to realign the 7,000-foot single runway to assuage the FAA’s concerns.

The Houston-area pilot and business executive wants to build Houston JetPort West in Fulshear, Texas, as a “much needed” reliever airport for the Houston metro area. Nearby residents claim they are not against a West Houston airport per se, just this particular site, which some describe as a midair waiting to happen.

What makes this battle more interesting is the cast of characters involved. Large landowners in the area have retained former FAA chief counsel Kenneth Quinn and have lauded Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), the House majority leader, for supporting the local communities. Henriksen has retained APCO Worldwide, a Washington-based consulting firm that boasts former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz as members.

A press release from the landowners’ group quoted a memo from David Johnson, FAA v-p of terminal services, who wrote, “No combination could be found in which non-standard patterns at any or all of the airports involved would eliminate all of the overlaps. From an operational perspective, our conclusion is that establishment of the airport would create a circumstance in which aircraft flying in accordance with federal regulations would routinely be placed in conflict.”

Last August, when plans for the new airport were first revealed, Henriksen said, “If I don’t build an airport on the west side of Houston now, someday the taxpayers will have to do it. I can build a prestigious business airport for less money than it would cost the government and I will not accept taxpayer money.”