Norfolk International airport

My hometown airport, Norfolk International, is the subject of my final study paper. Under the name Norfolk Municipal Airport, the airport debuted on April 7, 1938, with the carrier Penn Central, which is now United Airlines. Robert S. Brown, the third Executive Director in the airport's existence, currently holds the position. He started in it on March 1, 2016. Kenneth R. Scott served as the first Director and essentially built the airport before retiring after 39 years. Six accidents—three of which were fatal—and one incident have occurred since January 1, 2000, totaling six deaths. These numbers are higher than most airports including those of larger sizes. The most fatal accident was under the current Director, my research will compare the accidents between the Directors and determine the accident rate per year. I will also evaluate the airports environmental impact.

Airport and Aviation Law: The Case of Norfolk International Airport (ORF)

Businesses and government parastatals are governed by laws. The law describe the limits within which they operate, what they can or cannot do, and the penalties which are to be meted on those which fail to adhere to the requirements of the law. Similarly, Airports like Norfolk International have legislations which regulate their relationships between them and the society, environment, international bodies and countries, and the government itself. In particular, there are laws stipulating how the planes are to be made to avoid accidents. In the recent years, Norfolk International Airport has been involved in a number of accidents which lead to loss of lives. Nonetheless, the accidents and their rates vary amongst the reigns of different directors. On the same note, the environmental impact of the activities of the airline have been different from one administration to the other. This paper contains a research report on the environmental legal issues and actions taken by relevant authorities.

A Brief Description of the Airport, the Operator, and Areas It Serves

Norfolk International Airport (ORF) is under the management of Norfolk Airport Authority (NAA). The mission of the Norfolk Airport Authority is to “Manage the operation, maintenance, development, and marketing of Norfolk International Airport to serve the air transportation needs of coastal Virginia and northeast North Carolina” (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). In any given year, an average of 775,000 people use the airport to fly within United States or internationally. This population spends about $566 million which is directly earned by the airport or providers of related services. The airport also provides job opportunities to the local population and others individuals from other states and countries. As at now, the airline provides a total of 22,276 jobs. This number includes direct employments at the airport or indirect employments through provision of related goods and services. The airport was given an international status in 1976. However, it was until 1995 that the Federal Airport Administration (FAA) approved its tower. ORF has five airlines which operate from its grounds. These include American Airlines, United Allegiant, Delta, and Southwest. These airlines serve several cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, FT. Lauderdale, Houston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa and Washington.

The current Executive Director of ORF is Robert S. Brown (Delesline, 2016). He studied at Old Dominion University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree. During his last year in the university, Mr. Brown worked for Piedmont in its aviation department during the summer holidays (Delesline, 2016). His major roles were to fuel planes. He sometimes performed related line duty jobs. Although he left his summer holiday employment after graduating, he returned to Piedmont several years later after working for other institutions (Delesline, 2016). While at Piedmont, Mr. Brown sharpened his knowledge and skills of fuelling planes and performing related tasks for a period of 10 years (Delesline, 2016). It is at the end of a decade of his employment at this company that a vacancy opened up at NAA that he applied and was hired for his current position. Mr. Brown has been sheading the organization since 2016.

The Authority Responsible for Providing Security Screening for Passengers and Cargo

Norfolk’s security check screening is under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA is the governments authorized agency to deal with security of travelers. The body is created by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which was initially under the docket of Department of Transportation before it was transferred to where it currently. The agency works under the United States (US) Department of Homeland Security. Initially, US did not have this agency until the attack of terrorists on 11th September, 2001. It carries out two types of screening; on passengers and on luggage. Under the docket of passenger security, the agency screens people through first identifying them through their identification cards. Then, the employees compare the names against the list of individuals who are prohibited against flying in addition to the list of selectees. Another step is to check if the passenger is carrying any prohibited or harmful objects such as weapons and fluids. While screening, the TSA workers known as TSOs search the body manually through a process known as pat-downs. In other cases, they make people pass through an X—ray machine or millimeter wave detection machine. Then, the luggage are also checked physically after opening them.

Government’s Legal Action to Protect the Environment of ORF

To protect the surrounding airspace from obstruction by obstacles, ORF has been undertaking Obstruction Evaluation/Airport Airspace Analysis exercises in accordance to existing laws. The government had enacted the FAA Order. Under section 6-3-1 of the Order 7400.2F and Order 8260.3, there are certain limitations on the use of airspace at all Airports, including ORF. Order 8260.3, United States Standard for Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS), penetrating obstacles are excluded (Aerospace research Central, 2017). The law provides that any obstacle which may cause obstruction on the runaway or airspace around the airport must be eliminated. This law thus limits human activities such as construction or farming. In particular, the law controls the heights of buildings and vegetation in such a manner that no plants or houses can go beyond the set heights. On the other hand, FAA Order 7400.2E section 6-3-1, which is the Procedures for Handing Airspace Matters, the government has mandated the FAA to carry out Obstructive Evaluation at the airport to ensure that the airspace is only used within limits which safeguard the airline activities. Where FAA finds that a new construction or introduction of a new activity may be harmful to the airspace and its operations, the activity has to be stopped. Any person found to violate the set limits is punished by law.

Moreover, the government also controls the use of land around the airport to ensure that they are compatible with aircraft noise. Aircrafts produce a lot of noise which cannot be allowed in certain areas such as schools, hospitals, and wildlife areas. So, in 1976, FAA developed Aviation Noise Abatement Policy which ORF is adhering to. The policy provides that land use planning must consider the effects of aircraft noise on users of the land. For instance, FAA has been publishing guidelines, policies and opinions for people to coordinate the Airport Master Plans with their land use activities. Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act of 1979 was enacted to protect individuals against the effects of noise, identify land use which are compatible with noise, and development of a system which would measure the noise from aircrafts and its effect on the people living within the vicinities (Aerospace research Central, 2017). Additionally, the government came up with the Federal Aviation Regulation which require airport administration or owners to give FAA their planning of noise compatibility to find out if they are practicable or not. These laws and regulations work in unison to ensure that no human being is harmed by the noise produced by aircrafts. There are also other laws which deal with the same issue. They include Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (National Noise Policy), and many more federal and state laws.

Runway preferences are intentional plans put by aircraft authorities to minimize noise pollution during certain times of the day (Seedhouse, 2017). At ORF, the management has aligned its planning with the need to control noise exposure. The same laws guiding planning and noise compatibility with human activities also regulate the runaway choices. Thus, ORF has multiple runways to effect this need (Seedhouse, 2017). The airport applies the requirements of Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act of 1979 and the Aviation Noise Abatement Policy to ensure that the people living or working within the airport and the surrounding environment are not exposed to the same intensity of noise throughout the day. Accordingly, there are times when the aircrafts change runways for approach & departure.

The Agencies Which Acted on the Legal Issues

Although ORF is under independent management, FAA and its related bodies have been acting to reduce noise pollution, carry out noise evaluation processes, and coming up with policies for noise compatibility assessments. In particular, Norfolk Airport Authority is responsible for ensuring that the airspace is safe for navigation. Consequently, apart from making constant reminders to the airport administrations to conduct proper planning and safety actions, FAA provides them with policies, advice, and avenues of carrying out the evaluations. For instance, in 2009, FAA developed an online tool and availed it to the public to conduct Obstructive Evaluation/ Airport Airspace Analysis (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). It is on these legal bases that NAA made the evaluations to keep the use of the airport safe. Similarly, NAA incorporates the various development plans with the Master Plan of the Airport to find out noise compatibility mechanisms in addition to establishment of runway preferential lanes and timetable of use (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). In summary, NAA is responsible for all managerial and administrative functions of the airport and its facilities.

The 2008 Norfolk International Airport Master Plan

Source: Norfolk International Airport, 2017

Source and Type of Government Legal Powers

The government is guided by the laws which regulate the operations of airlines and related activities. These laws include statutes which are acts of parliament, regulations, and policies. The laws have specific provisions which they demand that the government agencies or administrations of the airport adhere to. For instance, Order 8260.3, United States Standard for Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS), NAA is mandated to be vigilant of the surrounding environment to prevent any obstacle which may intrude into the airspace at the airport. It is the work of NAA to remove the obstacles and create safety. Accordingly, if the authority finds that certain human activities such as construction of residential or commercial buildings result into obstruction of airs space, Order 8260.3 gives it power to eliminate the obstacle. Likewise, Order 7400.2E, Procedures for Handing Airspace Matters, guides NAA on how to handle the security and planning issues of airport space. Statutes such as The Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act of 1979, Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (National Noise Policy) also give NAA the authority to make physical planning changes to facilitate smooth operations of aircrafts at ORF. In a nutshell, the source of the authorities of NAA legal and administrative powers. They include enacted laws in the form of statutes and regulations, policies, and administrative directives.

Airline Accidents at ORF since 1/01/2000

Norfolk International Airport has experienced a number of accidents since its establishment almost a century ago. However, the number of on-site accidents since the year 2000 are six (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). In March, 2015, a plane crashed at ORF’s botanical garden. The plane had been obstructed by a tree growing in the garden at the airport. Thus, the cause of the accident was an obvious fault of the authority in charge of management, planning, and obstruction evaluation. The second incident happened in November 2016 when a plane crashed on the runway (National transport Safety Board, 2017). It had taken off but soon lost the ability to move and had to return to the runaway as a matter of urgency. The probable cause of the accident was technical issue which made the plane to fail to propel. Another accident took place in early April, 2000 (National transport Safety Board, 2017). The plane which was used to raise banners fell down with its front section facing downwards. It had caused the death of the pilot who was putting on banner for advertising services during the Boston Marathon of 2000 (National transport Safety Board, 2017). At the time of the crush, the weather was unconducive characterized by strong winds. In the circumstances, the accident could have been caused by the inability to counter the strong winds, a situation known as wing stall.

In June, 2002, another accident occurred at the airport. The helicopter known as Life Net had just took off from the Norfolk Hospital (National transport Safety Board, 2017). However, as soon as it was in the air, the pilot reported that he was experiencing trouble. He was unable to control the helicopter and crashed, killing himself and the two passengers. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the aircraft had a dysfunctional tail rotor and the pilot also had no skills of handling the type of the aircraft. He was thus unable to find ways of controlling the ill-fated helicopter and avoid the accident. In the following year of 2003 in the month of September, a Memphis bound plane injured an employee (National transport Safety Board, 2017). Although it was not a crash, the accident led to the death of the employee. The total number of deaths caused by the six accidents amount to six.

Airport Noise and Safety Issues and Activities Addressing the Problems

Like every other local or international airport which produce noise and receive complaints from the surrounding communities, Norfolk airport is experiencing similar problems. Some individuals have sued the company for the health effects of the noise (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). Some of the individuals have experienced heart problems and even death. So they seek court orders to mandate the NAA to compensate them for the damages. It is a good indication that even FAA has recognized noise pollution from airports as a nuisance and a health hazard. Consequently, it has developed a website which individuals, NAA and other airline service providers an access the information they need. It is known as Noise Quest (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). Additionally, the NAA is collaborating with FAA to find ways of reducing noise coming from the aircrafts. In particular, NAA is buying aircrafts which have more quiet engines. In other cases, it is acquiring sound proof materials or engines with sound proof equipment (Norfolk International Airport, 2017).

Besides, to ensure that safety exists within the airport and in the surrounding environment, NAA is forcing human habitation out of the areas which have high likelihood getting damaged when accidents occur. On the same note, the agency is engaging in activities of reducing the forests around the airport and controlling the height within which tress are allowed to grow (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). All these measures are geared towards conforming to the legal requirements for human safety. It has also improved on its flight control measures. For example, the watch towers have been equipped with modern facilities which enable the operators to respond to problems within the shortest time possible (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). The programs and the changes are majorly supported by the relentless support of FAA through its in-depth researches on aviation issues and safety matters.

Sustainability of the Airports Activities and Air Traffic Demand

In light of the technological developments, human resources, the will to improve on its activities and safety standard, and available facilities at the Norfolk international Airport, it is able to continue operating in its current location for many years. ORF has a large physical space which accommodates high number of passengers and aircrafts (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). Additionally, the agency has managed to convince a number of people to move ways form the danger zones (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). Thus, it is working towards protecting the community from the dangers of noise and other risks. Due to the accidents which have been taking place and the increase in population, hence need for more aircrafts, the administration of the airport had initiated a renovation master plan in 2008 (Norfolk International Airport, 2017). It has since been implemented. The airport has increased the number of runways (Norfolk International Airport, 2017) to accommodate the new needs. Considering that the number of accidents which have taken place since 2000 are also few with a low number of fatalities, the airport have the safety capacity to avoid accidents and incidences which cause loss of life. The few issues which have happened were inevitable as seen in every circumstance. The faults can largely be attributed to external factors such as bad weather conditions or manufacturers of the aircrafts. Accordingly, the management of the airport has done a great management, at least in 2 decades. It has and will continue to provide its services to the people without major incidents of the administration operates as it has done. Nevertheless, the laws on aviation safety and issues of noise are strong enough to guide the airport agency on its actions.


Aerospace Research Central (2017). Potential safety benefits of RNP approach procedures.

Delesline, N. (2016, August 12). First Person | Robert Bowen, executive director of Norfolk

International Airport. Retrieved October 29, 2017, from

Norfolk International Airport. (2017). Retrieved October 29, 2017,


National Transportation Safety Board accident and incident reporting requirements. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2017, from

Seedhouse, E. (2017). Spaceports around the world. In spaceports around the world, A global

growth industry (pp. 101-113). Springer International Publishing.

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