School near the airport is not a wise idea

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This is a letter I recently wrote to the school board about the proposed site for a new school.

Allow me to introduce myself. I flew for the Air Force through the Vietnam area. I came to Big Bend Community College in 1967 and taught Flight Aviation there until 1997. Following my retirement, I was a private contractor with the FAA as a Flight Examiner. Many of those exams were conducted from Moses Lake Municipal Airport. I have owned four aircraft that I have based at Moses Lake Municipal Airport. I have flown many types of aircraft that use the airport. I am an active pilot and fly a twin-engine aircraft that is based at the airport.

An FAA-prescribed airport traffic pattern is a rectangle with five components:

1. The takeoff leg or the upwind leg

2. The crosswind leg

3. The downwind leg

4. The base leg and

5. The final leg.

The standard direction for the pattern is counter-clockwise with left turns. This puts the pilot flying in the left seat of the aircraft at the best advantage for seeing other aircraft and for keeping the airport in sight.

At Moses Lake Municipal the pattern for landing to the north is a right-hand pattern, clockwise with right turns. That places the aircraft on the east side of the runway. The reason for this non-standard pattern is for traffic separation from air traffic on final at Grant County Airport. This is less advantageous for observation from the cockpit.

Most aircraft landing at Moses Lake Municipal while landing to the north will be on base about a mile to a mile and a half from the end of the runway. The altitude on the final turn is 300 to 400 feet above the ground. Some very slow aircraft may turn the final at a lesser distance but then they will be at a lower altitude in the final turn.

I hope this helps you understand that aircraft in a right pattern for the north runway at Moses Lake Municipal Airport will be at a low altitude in a turn right over the school site you are considering.

If the winds dictate landing to the south, then the takeoffs will also be to the south. This puts aircraft at a low altitude at a mile and a half with high power settings and maximum noise levels. This is directly over our proposed school site. Most aircraft accidents are on takeoff or landing.

I have added a mid-air accident analysis that might be of interest. The fact is that many mid-air collisions happen when landing aircraft are all aiming for that place one mile to a mile and a half from the end of any airport and 300 to 400 feet above the ground.

The aviation industry takes great effort to mitigate any problems concerning safety. I ask the school board to follow this example.

I hope this has been informative and perhaps you will reconsider the proposed location of a school.

Richard Pearce

Moses Lake

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