FAA nixes shorter runway at Florida airport

 - February 8, 2008, 10:00 AM

The FAA has strongly advised the operators of Witham Field Airport in Stuart, Fla., that their request to shorten 5,826-foot Runway 12/30 is not an option. The county commission wants to shorten the runway by decommissioning 230 feet on the Runway 12 end and using a declared distance for takeoffs that would reduce the length of Runway 30 by 460 feet.

In a letter to airport manager Mike Moon, FAA airports division manager Robert Chapman wrote that the FAA “is mindful of the sensitivity of the local community to aircraft noise.” The agency wants to work with the community to enhance the runway safety area and protection zone for Runway 12/30. But the FAA “has no technical basis in FAA standards for removing any runway length currently available for takeoff on Runway 12.”

In addition, the county has proposed using the 230 feet of decommissioned runway as a taxiway, and the FAA said this is unacceptable because it increases the chance of runway incursions. Reducing the runway length also increases the possibility of takeoff overruns and reduces the airport’s usefulness to aircraft operators.

As an alternative, the agency offered to help fund installation of engineered material arresting systems and to look into buying additional homes near the airport to allow for a protection zone. The agency has already purchased some 23 homes; another 24 are expected to be added to the list. “[The] FAA will not apply the use of declared distances that restrict access to an airport where alternative means are available to meet the [protection zone] requirements, which is the case at [Witham Field],” the FAA letter concluded. The Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to discuss these issues at a meeting on February 5.