You Guest It - Airport Commission Responds: Disinformation Trumps The Facts

by Huntley Harrison

A week ago, Chatham Town Meeting voters were hoodwinked by a disinformation campaign promulgated by a small but vocal group of airport critics who have done nothing but spread incorrect and misleading information about the airport commission’s efforts and plans to make the airport safer. This group has disparaged the FAA, MassDOT, the airport commission, the airport manager, and the consultants who have been working exhaustively to ensure that the obstruction removal plans are in compliance with and meet all regulatory standards.

Probably they would all say they want a safer airport, but when it comes to the airport commission doing something to improve airport safety, they push back. Unfortunately, this pushback has been in the form of distorted facts, speculation, exaggeration, statements that may be correct but don’t pertain to this airport and statements that are completely untrue.

For example, stating that airport operations are increasing, when, in fact the trend is down; that there will be complete removal of trees from Job Lot to Old Queen Anne Road — just simply not true; that the Pilatus PC-12 and small jet operations will result in expansion of the runway protection zones to 79 acres from the current 14, again, not true; and, that the commission’s “hidden agenda” is to expand operations and create a regional commercial airport, which is absolutely not the case and again pure misguided speculation.

In an email sent to the select board and forwarded to me for clarification, it was

requested that the select board should ask the commission to “repeal their decision to

classify Chatham’s airport as an ‘All Weather Landing’ airport.” I replied that this request

is impossible to fulfill because there is no such FAA designation. There is no such thing

as an all-weather-landing or a fair-weather-only airport. Aircraft make instrument

landings in Chatham and have been for many years. If conditions allow an aircraft to

land or depart, it is the pilot who makes the decision based on regulatory minimums

which include having to see the runway from at least a mile away. That said, the

commission would like to replace a dangerous circling approach with much safer and

quieter straight-in approaches.

Article 40 never had anything to do with obstruction removal, but its text was conflated with so many other issues that the voters were duped into believing that the simple administrative change to the map would bring untold devastation to trees, to the climate, to the aquifer, and to the quality of life in Chatham. Nothing could be further off base. Lastly, the elephant in the room was finally expressed when an elderly gentleman said, and I paraphrase, that the airport land should be appropriated for another purpose.

Simply, the airport critics want to close the airport and that would be a shame.

Please come to airport commission meetings if you want your questions answered and discuss the various issues and projects that the commission is trying to accomplish.

Huntley Harrison is chair of the Chatham Airport Commission.