‘Restricted airspaces may impact civilian flights’


Restricted airspace between Saipan and Tinian could add a “whole new level of complexity” to civilian travel between the islands, according to local civilian carrier Star Marianas.

The U.S. Department of Defense has proposed the establishment of eight of these restricted areas, “to be activated independently, in multiple segments, or in total—depending on where and what type of military activity” is occurring.

A restricted area denotes the existence of “unusual, often invisible, hazards to aircraft” like “artillery firing, aerial gunnery or guided missiles,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration

In a recent interview, Star Marianas president Shaun Christian said these restricted areas would have a “major impact on transportation between the two islands.”

He said he doesn’t see how it would be “realistically feasible, given the realities with the distance between the two islands” and “the type of aircraft that are economically efficient” operating between Saipan and Tinian.

“Whatever they are looking as far as shutting airspace down is going to increase transportation times, which are going to drive up costs for customers and certainly impact the traveling public,” he said.

Star Marianas had issues with cloud clearances and maintaining a certain altitude that kept them within gliding distance from the shore in the past. “The realities of the weather patterns out here, the height of the clouds above the surface makes it so even though we have a standard routing, we oftentimes have to deviate from that standard routing in order to stay compliant with the cloud clearances, and altitudes for gliding distance from shore,” Christian said.

Right now, if there is weather moving in those travel corridors, he said, “I can take off, turn, and fly out toward the west side of the Tinian to get around the rain squall and then be able to turn back into Saipan.”

“It just creates a whole new level of complexity in an already fairly complicated regulatory environment,” he said.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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