Under the bill, the Rhode Island General Assembly has clarified the state’s intent for the Rhode Island Airport Corp. (RIAC) to have the authority to eliminate obstructions, such as overgrown trees, that impact airspace and approach zones overlying private property adjacent to the six airports it operates. An ongoing lawsuit involving the Westerly State Airport challenged the state’s authority to clear airspace over non-airport or non-state-owned property—resulting in displaced runway thresholds at multiple state airports.
Westerly State Airport has three displaced thresholds of four runways, and Newport State Airport has one of two runway thresholds currently displaced.
But with the new legislation, a statewide solution exists to address obstructions by improving airspace protection for publicly owned airports. The legislation was a long time in coming to ensure the safety of the public—including pilots, passengers, neighbors, and surrounding communities.
“This commonsense legislation is a huge win for safety in Rhode Island. AOPA thanks Governor McKee for signing this important bill, which will allow state airports to continue focusing on operating and serving local constituents,” said AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins.
AOPA also worked with RIAC to ensure pilots will continue to have access to flight instruction and maintenance services they need. RIAC was considering business standards that would limit those services at all state airports, but, after hearing from AOPA, ultimately decided to provide some variations in the standards to better meet the needs of general aviation.