Stacey Barchenger FLORIDA TODAY
Airport, FAA Seek Solution to Construction Conflict
February 5, 2014
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  • Federal authorities have asked the Melbourne International Airport to stop construction on an about $8 million hangar, citing concerns the building would impair a signal from a navigation system.

    Airport officials say they are working with the Federal Aviation Administration and expect to reach an agreement within a week to prevent any delay of construction of the MidairUSA hangar. The FAA in November sent the airport an objection letter halting “vertical construction” indefinitely.

    “As a result of the aeronautical study, the FAA determined that the proposed structure would be a hazard to air navigation,” an FAA statement says. “The FAA has requested additional information, and is working on a plan to mitigate the building’s impact on the VOR (navigation), which is required before construction can resume.”

    The VOR, or very high frequency omnidirectional range radio, is a secondary navigation system. GPS is the primary navigation system. The FAA is phasing out VOR navigation, but has said the signal at Melbourne International Airport is still critical to regional navigation.

    The airport last year hired W&J Construction of Rockledge to build the 87,000-square-foot facility, which will be leased to Midair, at a cost of about $7.7 million. Vertical construction of the hangar, what is drawing concern from the FAA, has not yet started.

    “The construction of the building is ongoing,” Deputy Director of Aviation Rick Cloutier told the Melbourne City Council last week. “It has been ongoing for the last two months. All of the underground work is being done right now. The floor slab won’t be poured until February. Vertical construction isn’t scheduled to begin for another two to three weeks.”

    The issue came before the City Council last week, when the council approved a budget change allowing the airport authority to spend $46,250 for the FAA to conduct a study of how the navigational system would be affected.

    Airport officials have saida long-term solution would be converting the VOR beacon to a Doppler system. The cost of $1.5 million could be split with the FAA, but might fall entirely to the airport, which is a city agency. The airport’s annual budget is $17.7 million.

    “It will probably take a year and half to two years to do that long-term solution, and we just can’t stop our development for the next two years,” Cloutier told the Melbourne Airport Authority board about the Doppler optionin January. Cloutier said that option would allow future development to occur without interference from the VOR.

    Airport officials are hopeful they can work out a short-term agreement with the FAA before vertical construction on the Midair hangar begins. Kristy Snow, project manager with the construction firm, said she did not expect any delay because of the navigational issue.

    “With major construction there are things that crop up, we have to work with the city and with the FAA,” airport spokeswoman Lori Booker said. “We’re all about compromise … We don’t anticipate it being an issue because we do work so well with the FAA.”