The government wants to dramatically reduce the allowable height of buildings near hundreds of airports — a proposal that is drawing fire from real estate developers and members of Congress who say it will reduce property values.
The Federal Aviation Administration proposal, supported by airports and airlines, is driven by encroaching development that limits safe flight paths for planes that might lose power in an engine during takeoff. Planes can fly with only one engine, but they have less power to climb quickly over obstacles.
Airlines have to plan for the possibility that a plane could lose the use of an engine during takeoff even though that doesn’t happen very often. As more buildings, cellphone towers, wind turbines and other tall structures go up near airports, there are fewer safe flight paths available. Current regulations effectively limit building heights based on the amount of clearance needed by planes with two operating engines.
The FAA’s proposal has created “a real estate and developer firestorm,” said Ken Quinn, a former FAA chief counsel who is representing several developers. “A single building can be worth $100 million and more. If you are talking about lopping off whole floors, you can ruin the economic proposition and you can destroy the viability of the building, so you are talking about easily a $1 billion in economic impact.”
Cellphone tower owners and operators are also concerned.