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FAA: Fairmont airport must communicate with Clarksburg airport to avoid in-flight collisions

By Esteban Fernandez, Times West Virginian

KINGMONT, W.Va. — Samuel Heitzman fell in love with flying through the little planes he learned on.

He flies out of Frankman Field, also known as Fairmont Municipal Airport, right off of Interstate 79 at the Kingmont exit. The airport is home to the small aircraft Heitzman flies as a hobby.

By day, however, Heitzman is also a professional pilot. North Central West Virginia Airport in Clarksburg is one of the stops his company makes as part of the routes they serve. That means Heitzman sees both sides of a problem that Frankman Field is just starting to address.

“Traffic coming off of Fairmont is not talking to air traffic control and impeding flow into Clarksburg,” he said. “This could potentially cause crashes or incidents resulting in, you know, loss of life.”

On April 25, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration held an informal session at the Fairmont Brickside Bar and Grille, which sits opposite of Frankman Field. Together, FAA Traffic Control Manager David Wilson and several pilots from around the area met to discuss possible solutions that could forestall an accident.

North Central West Virginia Airport is roughly 10 miles from Frankman. On final approach to Clarksburg from the north, pilots descend down to one of the waypoints leading to North Central West Virginia Airport. However, this waypoint is located almost on top of Frankman Field. Instructions for the waypoint has pilots descending to 2,900 feet. Frankman Field is roughly 1,000 feet in elevation, leaving 1,900 feet of space between the landing strip and the waypoint.

What further complicates this is that Frankman Field is uncontrolled airspace, meaning there’s no supervision by Air Traffic Control. Pilots following visual flight rules do not have to talk to a control tower unless they are flying in direct controlled airspace. Recreational pilots are the ones who typically fly out of Frankman.

So, a lack of communication exists between pilots taking off from Frankman and ATC in Clarksburg. Pilots taking off from Frankman aren’t required to talk to ATC in Clarksburg to ensure there’s no traffic around them. Heitzman said it’s difficult to see another plane even if it’s as close as five miles away.

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