Sunday, September 9, 2012

No fly zone

Since 2007, the FAA has issued three approvals of airspace for the proposed Central Texas Airport project.

The first was issued for the Colorado Riverland Ranch Airport on September 18, 2007. The second came on January 02, 2009 when the name was changed to the Central Texas Airport. These first two were processed by Ben Guttery. The third approval dated May 12, 2010 came after a restructuring within the FAA and was handled by Glenn Boles. The format of this third document provided more detailed information than the previous two . . . a fact which did not please Mr. Carpenter:

“While this information may be beneficial for some purposes, it is not helpful or useful for our needs which is to simply demonstrate that our private development does not adversely impact Austin airspace. If a new letter could be issued that limits its scope . . . it would be of great assistance.”

- - Jim Carpenter to the FAA, November 07, 2011

On the second page of that detailed FAA document, there is a very interesting and previously unnoticed deadline - just the kind of information which Mr. Carpenter might not want to have available to the public:

“In order to avoid placing any unfair restrictions on users of the navigable airspace, this determination is valid until November 12, 2011. Should the facility not be operational by this date, an extension of the determination must be obtained by 30 days prior to the expiration date of this letter.”

- - FAA to Jim Carpenter, May 12, 2010

At the 11th hour with a deadline looming, Mr. Carpenter contacted the FAA on November 07, 2011 - just 5 days before the expiration date - to request assistance in extending the reservation of airspace for the CTA.

He was politely told:

“Regarding airspace determination, it looks like you need to formally request an additional extension to the determination. That will have to take place by contacting Glenn Boles.”

- - Mike Nicely to Jim Carpenter, November 07, 2011.

Someone on the CTA ‘team’ contacted Mr. Boles and then relayed the information to Jim Carpenter who summarized it as follows:

“. . . it is my understanding that for the FAA to continue to reserve the airspace (for Central Texas Airport) [the FAA] was going to need a copy of our Airport Business Plan with specific timelines and funding information to be sure this was a real project.”

- - Jim Carpenter to the FAA, November 09, 2011

Anyone who’s followed this project understands that the chances of Mr. Carpenter giving up that proprietary information is about nil. He tries to side-step the required documentation with this gambit:

“We believe that the Bastrop County Commissioners have already established the validity of the Central Texas Airport project and Section 9 of the Agreement establishes the timelines and performance requirements [the FAA] may be looking for. This is a publicly available document”.

- - Jim Carpenter to the FAA, November 09, 2011

Well, that didn’t fly too well with the FAA. He was politely advised:

“. . . to continue to extend an airspace determination for a proposed airport, the FAA needs some assurance the proponent is continuing to work toward developing the proposed airport. The airspace for the Central Texas Airport is being reserved and as a result, handicaps nearby property owners from establishing a landing area should they so desire. Reserving the airspace also has an impact on other property owners who may want to establish a tall structure. As a result the FAA is very sensitive to extending airspace determinations because those extensions have impacts on other property owner’s rights.”

- - Mike Nicely to Jim Carpenter, November 10, 2011

Later that day, Jim Carpenter submitted a formal request to Glenn Boles for the extension.

There was no further mention of Mr. Carpenter’s request within these recently obtained documents (which were responsive to a FOIA submitted in April 2012). So a call was made to Mr. Boles to get an update on the status of the request. We were told that Mr. Carpenter contacted the FAA last spring (2012) to inquire about the extension. In response the FAA issued a letter specifying the documentation that would be required. To date, the FAA has not had a response from Mr. Carpenter.

Just what documentation did the FAA require for an extension to the reserved airspace? A FOIA has been submitted for that exchange but we may not have a response for some time considering that the last FOIA took about 4 months.

In the meantime we can be thankful that the project is currently grounded with a ‘no fly zone’.

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