Construction in areas of restricted airspace is a complex and highly regulated process that requires significant planning and coordination to ensure safety and compliance. In this blog post, we will discuss the challenges and regulations associated with construction in restricted airspace areas, as well as some best practices for ensuring the successful completion of construction projects.
What is Restricted Airspace?
Restricted airspace is a designated area where the flight of aircraft is either prohibited or restricted due to safety or security concerns. These areas can include military airspace, national parks, wildlife refuges, and other sensitive areas where aircraft operations may pose a risk to public safety or national security. In the United States, restricted airspace is designated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is typically marked on aviation charts and maps.
Challenges of Construction in Restricted Airspace
Construction in these areas poses unique challenges compared to projects in unrestricted airspace. Some of these challenges include:
Compliance with FAA regulations
The FAA has strict regulations for construction projects, including requirements for obtaining special authorizations, submitting detailed construction plans, and adhering to specific safety protocols.
Coordination with aviation authorities
Construction projects in restricted airspace must coordinate with local aviation authorities to ensure that aircraft can safely navigate around the construction site.
Construction in these areas can pose safety risks to workers and the public due to the proximity of aircraft.
Restricted airspace areas often include sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitats that must be protected during construction. In these instances, special environmental protections may be required.
Construction projects within restricted airspace must comply with FAA regulations to ensure safe and legal operation.
Regulations for Construction in Restricted Airspace
The FAA has established strict regulations to ensure safe and legal operation. These regulations include:
Any construction project in restricted airspace must obtain special authorizations from the FAA before beginning work. These authorizations may include a Certificate of Authorization (COA), a Letter of Agreement (LOA), or other approvals depending on the specific requirements of the project. Importantly, general contractors must ensure that these approvals are completed, as the local jurisdictions and the FAA may not be proactive about these efforts.
Notice to Airmen (NOTAM)
The FAA requires that construction projects in restricted airspace provide notice to airmen (NOTAM) of any temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) that may affect aircraft operations. This allows pilots to plan their flights around the construction site and avoid potential hazards.
Construction projects in these areas must adhere to specific safety protocols to ensure the safety of workers and airspace users. These protocols may include establishing exclusion zones around the construction site, using specialized equipment that is designed to minimize interference with airspace operations, and implementing safety protocols for workers and equipment.
Construction projects in restricted airspace must comply with environmental protection regulations to ensure that sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitats are protected. This may include monitoring and mitigation measures to minimize disturbances to wildlife, or restrictions on construction activities during certain times of the year.
At a recent project in Burlington, Washington, our team members installed bird mitigation with Hexprotect in the swale on our site. This high-density polyethylene product floats on the top of the water so that birds avoid landing in it – or, more troubling – taking off from the water and disrupting air traffic.
Best Practices for Construction in Restricted Airspace
To ensure successful completion of construction projects in restricted airspace, it is important to follow best practices that have been developed based on years of experience.
Some of these best practices include:
1. Early Planning and Coordination
The planning and coordination of the project with the aviation authorities should begin as early as possible in the project planning process. This allows for a thorough understanding of the specific requirements and regulations that must be followed and ensures that all necessary authorizations and approvals are obtained in a timely manner. The first step in a given project that may be impact airspace includes the completion of an aeronautical study to review impacts to flight patterns, either temporary or permanent. Documentation should be kept onsite during construction. Planning should also be inclusive of the project team members, including crane operators, who may need to adjust their strategies for material placement.
2. Communication with Aviation Authorities
To ensure that the construction project can be safely completed without affecting airspace operations, effective communication with aviation authorities is essential. During the construction process, this will include providing timely notice of temporary flight restrictions, coordinating with air traffic control, and establishing clear communication channels for any issues that may arise.
3. Safety Protocols
The establishment and implementation of safety protocols is critical for ensuring the safety of workers and users of the airspace. Among these steps are the use of specialized equipment designed to minimize interference with airspace operations, the establishment of exclusion zones around the construction site, and the implementation of safety protocols for workers and equipment.
4. Environmental Protection
In order to protect sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitats, construction projects in restricted airspace must comply with environmental protection regulations. For example, monitoring and mitigation measures to minimize disturbances to wildlife may be implemented, or construction activities may be restricted during certain seasons.
5. Experienced and Qualified Team
Construction projects in restricted airspace require a team with specialized knowledge and experience. This includes personnel who are familiar with FAA regulations, aviation safety protocols, and environmental protection regulations. It is also important to work with contractors who have experience completing similar projects in restricted airspace.
Construction in restricted airspace areas requires significant planning, coordination, and compliance with FAA regulations to ensure safety and legal operation. Effective communication with aviation authorities, establishment of safety protocols, and compliance with environmental protection regulations are all critical for successful completion of construction projects in restricted airspace. By following best practices and working with an experienced and qualified team, construction projects in restricted airspace can be safely and successfully completed.
If you have a project near restricted airspace, contact our teams today for assistance.