View of Whiteplains Plantation

View of Whiteplains Plantation
Over Head View

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Whiteplains UNICOM #5: Runway Access

One of the most significant things to have happened in the last few weeks is the transfer of ownership of the runway parcel from the developer to the homeowners association. Of course, along with ownership comes liability. The issue of liability insurance is the subject of ongoing discussion in the Board, but this UNICOM is devoted to a different aspect of liability: the recent increase of unauthorized and inappropriate vehicles on the runway. This problem doesn’t belong to Niel any more; it belongs to us.

Aircraft in the departure and landing phases of flight are not very maneuverable. For safety and liability reasons, we must tightly control the use of the runway for anything other than aircraft. The following paragraphs describe the Board’s view of the types of runway incursion issues, and what we must do about them.

Visitors’ cars/trucks. Vehicles driven by guests of property owners are of the greatest concern because, if a driver enters the runway, he/she is probably both lost and unaware of an aircraft hazard. A committee has recently been formed to evaluate signage throughout the community, and appropriate signage at all runway access points will be an important part of the committee’s agenda. This should help a great deal. We can all help by alerting our visitors (including delivery vehicles) to the presence of a runway in the neighborhood.

Construction vehicles. Construction workers are much like visitors, so property owners and general contractors should make them aware of the presence of the runway. Sometimes, a construction vehicle may need to access a building site via the runway, but this should be a choice of last resort, not a convenience. This is particularly true for heavy loads… there is already substantial damage to the runway edges from things like concrete delivery.

Property owners’ cars/trucks. There are cases where some property owners have vehicles (cars, boats, campers, etc.) stored in their hangars, and the only available entry/exit is via the runway. It has been a long-standing policy that this is fine, provided that usage is limited and the utmost caution is observed. On the other hand, use of the runway as a convenience or short-cut is totally inappropriate. If you need to drive to a neighbor’s hangar, please use the street.

Unlicensed vehicles. This includes ATVs, go-carts, golf carts, motorcycles, bicycles, RC model cars and planes, and other such “toys.” It is inappropriate to operate these vehicles on the runway surface, with the possible exception of crossing from one side to another, and then only with extreme caution.

Pedestrians. Walking along the runway is dangerous to both pilots and pedestrians. Please don’t do it. If you need to walk across the runway, please look in both directions before proceeding.

Maintenance vehicles. Access to the runway is required by maintenance vehicles to cut grass, spray herbicide, repair runway lights, and the like. Such vehicles should have headlights and flashers on and, in addition, their drivers should monitor 122.9 mHz to listen for inbound air traffic. Pilots should be on the lookout for maintenance vehicles.

A runway in the midst of a residential neighborhood presents a very real potential for serious personal injury or property damage… but the risk can be managed and minimized. Please help our community by doing three things:

1. Observe this simple common-sense rule: “Except in extraordinary cases, the runway is only for aircraft.”

2. In those extraordinary cases, turn your headlights and blinkers on, lower your windows to listen for approaching aircraft, and monitor 122.9 mHz, if you have the capability.

3. If you see a visitor or neighbor with an inappropriate vehicle on the runway, do not hesitate to offer a friendly reminder of our policies and the safety/liability issues.

Thanks for helping to keep Whiteplains safe.

Ken Plesser, President
Whiteplains Plantation Association

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