FAA safety standards prompt tree removal along Mullis Street

The line of trees inside the airport fence by Mullis Street only appeared to be a good distance from the runway.

By FAA standards, they were not.

The Port of Friday Harbor recently had those trees cut down to comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations requiring any object that penetrates the so-called "approach surfaces" of an airport to be either lighted, marked or removed.

The trees beside the fence near Mullis Street were among those identified in a recent safety inspection as obstructions in approach surfaces in or around the airport. Other trees are expected to be either topped or removed, according to the port.

Removal of the line of trees along the fence is part of a first phase of a comprehensive effort of tree topping or removal for the sake of airport safety and in order to satisfy FAA regulations, the port noted in a press release.

Airport Manager David Ryan said approach surfaces can be difficult to visualize, but are identified as those areas at either end of the runway, as well as a certain distance on either side.

"There are all kinds of 'imaginary surfaces' the FAA considers on approaches to airports," Ryan said. "… it’s kind of like the runway is an elongated stadium with imaginary bleachers rising to the sides and ends. These are the imaginary surfaces that have to be kept clear of obstacles."

Ryan noted compliance standards for maintaining approach surfaces are outlined in an FAA document called FAR Part 77, "Objects Affecting Navigable Airspace."

Only those trees that jeopardize safe operation of the airport will be topped or taken down, the port noted in its press release.

— Scott Rasmussen



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