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The North Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission on Thursday approved a proposal to share a radio frequency with nearby Camp Robinson airfield in the interest of safety for pilots at both airports.

"The safety of our pilots is paramount, and it's imperative we take this step," said commission member Jim Julian, who made the motion to approve the proposal.

The 6-1 vote clears the way for Clay Rogers, the North Little Rock Municipal Airport manager, to work with Camp Robinson airfield personnel on a new "discreet" radio frequency that only the two airports will share and that will allow pilots at both airports to hear one another's radio traffic.

Julian's motion gave the airports until June 2016 to make the transition to the new frequency, which will have to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission and timed to coincide with the publication of Federal Aviation Administration aeronautical charts and airport/facility directories.

No accidents have occurred as a result of the airports' proximity to each other -- they are just 2.5 miles apart -- but Arkansas Army National Guard personnel say their training has been interrupted on occasion by close calls with planes flying to or from the North Little Rock airport. The close calls generally occur when aircraft take off from the civilian airport heading west.

Neither airport has a control tower. Pilots at both airports rely other pilots announcing their positions and intentions over the airports' respective radio frequencies.

Assigned to Camp Robinson airfield are Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters -- twin-engine, medium-lift choppers -- that are operated by the Arkansas Army National Guard. When not on deployments, Guard personnel train using the helicopters.

Small private and business aircraft use the North Little Rock airport.

Chief Warrant Officer Dustin Beene, a Guard helicopter instructor pilot and Camp Robinson's airspace officer, told the commission that, since July 11, a total of 21 aircraft from the North Little Rock airport have flown over the military airfield at "pattern altitude," which is generally about 1,000 feet and the altitude at which much of the training takes place.

The Guard helicopters currently use a military-only frequency at Camp Robinson. North Little Rock Municipal Airport uses a frequency commonly assigned to small general aviation airports.

Ten airports within about 40 miles of North Little Rock use the same frequency, which means that once a pilot is aloft he can hear pilots' radio transmissions at nearby airports.

The new proposed frequency, 123.075, will be available only to aircraft equipped with newer generation radios, which critics of the frequency change cited. A small percentage of aircraft that use the airport lack the newer radios, which can cost thousands of dollars to install.

Don Blakey was the only commission member who voted against the proposal. He and other critics said it is unsafe to change a frequency that the airport has used for years and that allows pilots to transition from one general aviation airport to another without having to change channels.

Metro on 08/21/2015

Print Headline: 2 airports adopting one radio frequency

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