2005 TREE REMOVAL, LIGHTING REPAIR AMONG
AIRPORT SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will begin
new safety improvements at the Horace Williams Airport this
month to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules.
UNC will remove trees that have grown too high in the runway
approach slope and repair the runway lighting system. The
university took similar steps with trees in 1998 and in recent
years cut select trees periodically to comply with FAA requirements.
The new removal will involve selectively cutting some pines
and hardwood trees on about seven acres.
“We are making these safety improvements to honor our
pledge to keep the airport open until 2008 when we move forward
with Carolina North,” said Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor
for finance and administration. “We are committed to
our Area Health Education Centers program and to providing
a safe airport for its Medical Air Operations until the airport
closes. As long as Horace Williams remains open, the airport
must be safe.”
In 1998, the FAA notified the university that it must remove
trees in the runway approach slope to retain instrument-guided
landing approaches. On its own property, UNC removed all of
the too-tall trees and topped others in order to comply with
the FAA regulations.
A survey by consultants Talbert & Bright documented the
airport’s latest tree problem and was the basis for
the new removal plan. To avoid any tree cutting on private
property, the university will effectively shorten the runway
length by an additional 220 feet.
A swath of pine trees covering less than one acre on the
runway’s southeast side must be cut and removed. Most
of those trees shield the airport parking lot from Estes Drive
Extension. A smaller number of others are across Estes Drive
next to the university’s facilities. The east side of
the runway was the main location of the 1998 tree removal
In addition, UNC must selectively cut down trees that are
too tall and located on slightly more than six acres. Those
trees impede approaches on the west end of the airport’s
runway—including on both sides of Seawell School Road
on UNC property that is part of Carolina North. An estimated
15 percent of the trees in that area must be cut.
The height of the trees to be cut depends on where in the
approach slope they are located. Some are 85 feet tall or
higher. Crews will mark trees on the runway’s west end
starting next week. Work on the runway’s southeast side
is not scheduled until late November or December.
Crews will use environmentally sensitive practices in removing
trees, said Kirk Pelland, grounds division director. On the
west side of the runway, crews will cut trees and leave them
on the ground to minimize additional damage to remaining trees.
The university followed that same practice in 1998. Existing
bicycle or running trails will be cleared after the trees
UNC plans to restore the areas bordering Estes Drive Extension
as a natural area. Plantings will include flowering trees
and low-growing evergreens. One large white ash tree near
the Town of Chapel Hill’s bus maintenance facility,
located on leased UNC property, will be left and lit at night
and during periods of low visibility as a safety measure.
Besides the tree removal, the university will upgrade its
slope indicator system, which helps guide pilots during landing.
Preliminary estimates place the cost of tree removal and the
lighting equipment at about $200,000.
UNC plans to relocate Medical Air Operations, which serves
the Area Health Education Centers Program, to Raleigh-Durham
International Airport when the development of Carolina North
begins. AHEC improves access to primary health-care services
around the state through the efforts of faculty, staff and
students in educational and patient-related activities at
Last May, UNC pledged to keep the airport open until site
work for Carolina North begins in 2008. The public-use airport
owned by UNC has operated since the 1940s. Carolina North
is a new campus envisioned for living and discovery on a 900-acre
tract owned by UNC that includes the airport. UNC trustees
authorized work with potential partners, including the towns
of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, on the project
This map shows where the university must cut down trees to
comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules. Pines covering
less than one acre on the Horace Williams Airport runway’s
southeast side must be cut and removed. UNC must selectively
cut down trees on about six acres on the west end of the runway,
including on both sides of Seawell School Road. An estimated
15 percent of the tress in this area must be cut.