Protecting Approach and Departure Surfaces

Airport runway

The FAA recently sent a memo to all airport district offices reminding them about the safety of protecting approach and departure surfaces.

Maintaining clear approach and departure surfaces at an airport is the sponsor’s responsibility. Grant assurances 19, 20, 21, and 29 reference the responsibility to maintain clear approach and departure surfaces. Recently, the FAA has been reviewing the 20:1 approach surfaces at all airports and evaluating if these surfaces are clear of obstructions.

Once the FAA has reviewed the 20:1 obstructions each obstruction is classified as high risk, medium risk, or low risk. High risk obstructions are classified as objects which are more than 11 feet above the 20:1 surface; medium risk obstructions are more than three feet and up to 11 feet above the surface; and low risk obstructions are less than three feet above the surface.

Any obstructions located on-airport are expected to removed, lowered, light, or mitigated as soon as possible; however, mitigating off-airport obstructions can be more challenging. The FAA recognizes that not all airport sponsors have direct jurisdictional control over property use near the airport. However, the FAA does not consider the lack of direct authority a reason to decline action to achieve land use compatibility outside of airport boundaries. In all cases, the FAA expects airport sponsors to actively seek feasible, prudent opportunities to eliminate, reduce, or mitigate risks associated with obstructions to the 20:1 surfaces.

Beginning in 2016, when a sponsor meets with FAA Airport District Office (ADO) staff to discuss CIP updates or potential funding requests, ADO staff will discuss the need to establish an Obstacle Action Plan (OAP) showing actions required for the sponsor to mitigate obstructions or continue to maintain the clear approaches at the airport. The ADO may review, but not approve the OAP as it is the sponsor’s responsibility to develop and implement the OAP.

If your airport has any obstructions within the 20:1 surface, contact Aviation Project Engineer, Greg Broussard to discuss how to address them.


Named one of the very best workplaces in the States of Minnesota and Iowa! We’re proud to rank in the Top 50 on the list, and even prouder that we were voted in by our own employees.