August 5, 2021

Airport Obstacle Limitation Surfaces and Urban Planning

An obstacle limitation surface (OLS) is a 3D surface that defines the limits that objects may project in the airspace that must be free from obstacles in order to ensure safety and usability from the creation of obstacles. Obstacles can be vegetation, fences, buildings, antennae and chimneys. CEAC Solutions’ study of Jamaica’s Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston focused on identifying obstacles and

formulating guidelines for supporting planning the in the three municipalities influenced by the airport.

Civil aviation standards are based on guidelines to maintain aviation safety by restricting obstacles such as buildings and other elements in the OLS defined by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 14. CEAC used mass data acquisition LIDAR techniques to create a Digital Terrain Model (DTM)  to identify obstacle and classical topographic survey methods to verify heights and locations. Verification of these obstacles was done over a week and a half period where several obstacles were observed and analyzed using SkySafe and used to prepare an ICAO Chart Type A & B in eTod format. The findings and OLS were applied to a review and formulation of urban planning guidelines.

An overlay zone ordinance approach was used to formulate an additional proposed regulatory layer for the airport after being adopted by the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA). Proposed regulations in the overlay zone would guide and apply to erection of new structures or increasing the height of an existing structure.


OLS studies and urban planning tools can be used to ensure flight safety regulation and orderly building guidelines. A combination of surveying, aeronautical and planning tools were applied by CEAC to develop planning guidelines for consideration by JCAA, NEPA and the municipalities. An obstacle table was created for airport management.

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