Einstein may not be needed to get a Part 77 approval for your building from the FAA, but his principles should help

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More buildings in downtown Miami Beach have received letters of rejection from the FAA under its Airport Airspace Analysis. Other proposed construction sites (1400 Biscayne Blvd., 444 Brickell Ave., 1201 Brickell Bay Dr., 400 Biscayne Blvd., 700 NE 23rd St.) have recently received recent rejections. Other developers with designs of raising towers at or above heights denied by the FAA submitted plans asking for a different outcome. Why? The taller an office or condominium building creates a greater return per square foot of the ground at these properties; so that makes cents (spell check says that it should be “sense”).


Again the question is why requesting essentially the same relief previously denied? One is reminded of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, to wit, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” But these are smart businesspersons and they must have some reasonable expectation of a different result.

Obstruction Evaluation is the term of art under 14 CFR Part 77. The application of OE to a specific case involves air traffic control safety and efficiency. The geometry of the imaginary surfaces, which are designed to protect flight from tall towers constitute an objective test. However, the FAA test of efficiency of the air traffic control flow is not such a straightforward criterion.

Actually the matching of the surfaces to the proposed point of obstruction contains some ambiguities. The use of lighting and/or marking of the building may create some latitude, too. Reducing the target apex may also curry an approval. Part 77 experts have developed a number of alterations which tend to satisfy the air traffic, flight standards and airport review team. There have been occasions when one solution has been accepted by one local review team, while denied by another; knowing the tendencies of the FAA can help.


The air traffic design of procedures which avoid the key safety constraints and which maintain the volume/ease of directing of the flights is where artistry meets engineering. Tremendous comprehension of ATC procedures is a prerequisite to finding acceptable alternatives. Knowledge of weather conditions, of aircraft performance, of the workload of controllers at the sectors/positions being impacted by the proposal, of the critical points within the decision process and a number of other relevant, not so apparent factors can contribute to a positive outcome.

Most importantly, the true experts can understand the FAA’s internal considerations, keep the developer’s vision in mind and have the ability to think outside of the box to design a credible win/win solution.

The repeated efforts of the Miami developers to get Part 77 approvals are not proof, under Einstein’s definition, of insanity. Selection of an expert, who commands FAA confidence in an alternative, not invented by the FAA created, may avoid the same outcome. Another Einstein truism, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” may be the most telling factor in resolving the mufti-variate, objective/subjective calculus called a successful Part 77 resolution.


ARTICLE: FAA Rejects Plans for Tall Miami Towers. Now What?

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