Let's all hurl at once and mail it all to MCO...........damn this is nauseating.
Plane-watchers lose prime spot near airport
By Tim Barker
Sentinel Staff Writer
December 12, 2002
Three men, some metal poles and a fence-post driver. That's all it took Wednesday for one of the public's most intimate views of Orlando International Airport to start going away.
It should take less than a week for the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority to close off an area frequented for decades by plane enthusiasts, tourists and people just looking to kill time.
According to a letter from Orlando transportation engineer Harry Campbell to the expressway authority, a new fence will be erected 14 feet from the edge of McCoy Road, which turns into Frontage Road. The spot offers prime viewing of planes coming and going from two of the airport's three runways.
To further discourage anyone from trying to use the remaining, unfenced portion, a host of "No Parking Tow-away Zone" signs will be spaced along the new fence line.
While the action was requested by the airport -- citing security concerns in the wake of a failed missile attack on a jet in Kenya -- the final decision to eliminate the parking area was made by the city of Orlando.
Initially it appeared there might be a discussion on the issue, with council member Phil Diamond, whose district includes the airport, saying he wanted it brought before the entire City Council.
But the mayor's top deputy, Richard Levey, gave the go-ahead to close the area late last week. The mayor's spokeswoman, Susan Blexrud, defended the fast decision.
"Basically this is an administrative function. It's not anything that needs to go to council," Blexrud said. "I can appreciate that there are people out there who like to sit and watch airplanes go over. But this is a security issue."
Diamond also is now happy with the decision.
"Our country is at war. A lot of people are making sacrifices," he said. "I think it's a prudent measure."
Those security arguments, however, have drawn mixed reviews from aviation experts.
Some have applauded the move, saying it does eliminate one possible approach for terrorists hoping to attack airplanes with shoulder-launched missiles. At the same time, they point out that video surveillance of the area would accomplish the same thing.
Others have been more critical, calling it an overreaction that only damages Orlando International's relationship with the public.
"This is a sad day," said George Hamlin, vice president of Global Aviation Associates, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.
He said the action does little to offset the threat of a missile attack -- considering the vast stretches of undeveloped land around the airport -- while taking away one of the airport's ties to the community.
"Is it going to cause catastrophic, economic havoc? No. But on the other hand, there may be a time when the airport is looking for community support, and it may be harder to come by," he said.
For now, plane enthusiasts appear to be out of options.
There seems to be little hope that the space will be resurrected as an official viewing area, like those found at airports scattered across the country. And even some of those, including one near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, have also fallen victim to tightened security.
The Orlando parking area, which stretches along some 3,000 feet of McCoy Road between South Conway Road and State Road 436, was never intended to be used for its current purpose. It just sort of evolved that way, with the city tending the land and keeping it clear for plane watchers.
And even if the airport and city wanted to make it an official viewing area, they would have some work to do in persuading the expressway authority, which owns the land, to go along with it.
Authority spokesman Steve Pustelnyk said the land is likely to be consumed in the future by an expansion of the Bee Line Expressway, which parallels McCoy at that point.
"As the area develops, we'd like to take that road out of there," Pustelnyk said.
There does not appear to be any plan to consider a viewing area elsewhere. City officials say any such plan would have to be initiated by the airport.
"That's something the airport would have to decide," Blexrud said.
Airport officials say that economic and security conditions have ruled out any such talk.
"We have not considered an observation area and currently would not consider one," spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said.
Tim Barker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5022.
Copyright (c) 2002, Orlando Sentinel
Photographing aircraft since the Earth was flat and on Airliners.net since #338