Friday, January 20, 2017

Glider Activity Moved To South Side Of Harriman-and-West Airport (KAQW)

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Airport Commission has voted to move all glider and tow-plane activity to the south side of the runway.

The commissioners unanimously voted on the issue Tuesday even though they had concerns about letting the tow plane operate in an area designated for ultralight aircraft. 

"The whole point was to separate the planes by their speed and now you put the tow plane in with the gliders," Commissioner Trevor Gilman said. "Just because the glider pilots are familiar with it doesn’t make it any less of an obstacle in the pattern because it is still a 100-naught airplane on that side."

Initially, Gilman requested that just glider activity was just moved to the south side of the airport. He said the FAA cleared the change assuming they properly charted the operation.

He said as long as the gliders carry a handheld radio to contact other planes there should be no confusion with flight patterns.

Pilot Michael Milazzo suggested that all glider operation be set to the south side of the airport, including the tow plane for safety reasons.

"The tow plan has a tow rope and I have had instances where a faster plane is coming in and I have 200 feet rope dangling from the end of my plane," he said. "Now you don’t only have a plane that is 8 feet tall … but now you have 200 feet of rope hanging out there like fishing line."

He said tow planes always know where the gliders are and it would be safer to keep them with the gliders.

He added it would also help with noise abatement. 

Gilman noted that the FAA were ok with glider operations on one side of the airport but he didn’t know how they would feel about throwing a tow plane into the mix. He also feared having a tow plane in the area would confuse transient pilots.

Gilman said he would be willing to bend to the request if the glider pilots followed the rules. He noted that pilots often line up their gliders on the edge of the runway in the safe zone for prepping.

"That is way inside the safety zone for planning traffic," he said. "If we have a King Air come into land and there are gliders on the edge they are literally within the wingspan. They need to be in the designated area." 

Airport Manager Bill Greenwald added that the glider pilots should not have more than one vehicle in the infield.

Greenwald, who was also hesitant to allow the tow plane in, said if it doesn’t work they can revert to past practices.

Since there is no glider activity this time of year, commission members will meet with gliders and work out an agreement.


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