Confusion over new standards causing headaches for Birchwood Airport renovations

BIRCHWOOD, AK (KTUU) - Pilots say that the Department of Transportation is wasting money in a $4.5 million dollar project to upgrade the Birchwood Airport.

The problem is the tie down anchors, where pilots strap the wings of their planes when not in use, particularly where to install them.

The traditional tie down length for this type of plane is about 20 to 24 feet, which puts the anchor point in the middle of the wing, but the new construction at the Birchwood Airport puts these tie downs several feet farther apart, at the tip of the plane's wings. Pilots say this is dangerous to the frame's integrity should there be strong winds as it can cause the plane to torque, and possibly damage to the plane.

The layout is a clear departure from the standard, but the Department of Transportation says it is following the newest recommendations from the FAA which show tie downs placed at wing tips.

Ken McCarty says the error is in FAA's diagram and the DOT failing to follow the industry standard.

“The people that are the contractors, they recognize that it doesn't look the same, but they have no say in the matter. DOT is the one who has the final say. Again, they're going off the FAAa guidelines but not the accurate ones,” he said.

On Friday the FAA told Channel 2 that it is changing the guidelines.

"Placing tie downs at the wing tips has proven to be problematic. It inconsistent with industry and AOPA guidance. For this reason, we are changing the graphic and the guidance in the upcoming revision to recommend placement of the tie-downs at the end of the marked tee and emphasize that the airport operator has discretion to customize the layouts," they wrote.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said they are not aware of any FAA correction of the design and that the construction project is continuing. It’s a decision McCarty says not only is a waste of funds for the project, but will also have a prolonged impact on the airport and nearby businesses because pilots are unwilling to use the wider tie-down design.

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