Information about the obstruction removal project at the Sugar Land Regional Airport
The Sugar Land Regional Airport will soon comply with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirement to remove trees that present a hazard for aircraft approaching and/or departing north of the runway.
- Obstruction mitigation is required by the FAA and necessary to ensure the safe operation of the airport.
- The project will be funded by Sugar Land Regional Airport. The Airport is a self-supporting business that does not utilize general fund tax dollars.
- This project is unrelated to ongoing Cullinan Park improvements that will provide the community with additional walking and jogging opportunities in nature, while preserving existing native hardwood trees.
- In order to ensure that the cleared area continues to benefit Cullinan Park visitors, the airport intends to provide improvements to the affected area compatible with the safe operation of aircraft.
- This project will be coordinated with the Sugar Land Parks and Recreation Department and the Cullinan Park Conservancy.
Points of Obstruction
The FAA’s original estimate of 150 trees turned out to be 585 trees due to the FAA using limited ground survey data and the density of the Park. After ground and aerial surveys, each “tree” the FAA identified was actually 3-4 trees. This project will remove the 150 “Points of Obstruction” that the FAA identified.
- The FAA notified the Airport verbally and in writing in early 2022 of “approximately 150 trees” that obstructed the approach for Runway 17.
- After conducting ground and aerial surveying, it was determined that the 150 trees the FAA originally identified were actually 150 “points of obstruction,” where one point consisted of 3-4 trees.
- The eastern and western edges of the 6.7 acres were found to be penetrating the approach.
- The FAA provided an exhibit of the location of the tree obstructions [see exhibit].
- The area the FAA identified south of the road consists of 553 trees or approximately 6.7 acres.
- The area north of the road consists of 31 trees that were removed and 1 tree that was able to be trimmed.
- From the survey results, a scope of work was created that is consistent with the obstruction data from the FAA [see scope of work].
Complying with the FAA requirement
- The Sugar Land Regional Airport commissioned an engineering firm to complete a ground and aerial survey to quantify tree height and penetration distance into the approach airspace.
- It was determined that 6.7 acres of the 754 acre Cullinan Park will need to be cleared to comply with the FAA mandate and ensure public safety.
- The height of the trees has created dangerous conditions for aircraft approaching and/or departing north of the runway.
- The trees – mostly non-native invasive species -- will be removed from the 6.7 acres.
- The 6.7 acres was mostly empty when the city purchased the airport in 1990. Since that time, the acreage has been overtaken with non-native invasive trees such as Chinese Tallows and other fast-growing species.
Questions and Answers
- Why are the trees being removed?
The FAA identified a significant number of obstructions to the safe operation of landing aircraft at Sugar Land Regional Airport and notified us that the obstructions required removal.
- What is the danger?
The height of the trees has created dangerous conditions for aircraft approaching and/or departing north of the runway.
- How many trees will be removed?
- 6.7 acres of the 754-acre Cullinan Park will be cleared
- 584 trees - mostly non-native invasive species - will be removed from the 6.7 acres
- Why are the trees only now determined to be dangerous?
The 6.7 acres were mostly empty when the city purchased the Airport in 1990. Since then, fast-growing invasive species such as Hackberry and Chinese Tallows have overgrown the area.
The FAA recently renewed its focus on General Aviation airports and notified us of the safety requirement.
- How did you determine how many trees must be removed?
The Sugar Land Regional Airport commissioned an engineering firm to complete a ground and aerial survey to quantify tree height and penetration distance into the approach airspace.
- Why not just prune the trees?
The majority of the trees would die if they were pruned to a safe obstruction height due to the removal of significantly more than 25% of the green foliage. Any that remained would quickly grow back.
- Will this tree removal project be funded by taxpayers?
No. The project will be funded by Sugar Land Regional Airport. The Airport is a self-supporting business that does not utilize general fund tax dollars.
- What about the birds and animals you are displacing?
The Sugar Land Regional Airport consulted with arborists and wildlife experts and determined that the least impactful timeframe for migratory and nesting species would allow for the removal this January and February.
Additionally, Cullinan Park includes 754 acres of dense tree canopy. The remaining 747.3 acres will continue to be home to numerous wildlife species.