AOPA files comments telling FAA to deny Navy request for prohibited airspace

June 8, 2004

AOPA files comments telling FAA to deny Navy request for prohibited airspace

Click for larger image
Image from AOPA's Real-Time Flight
Planner
shows the TFR that would become
P-51 if the FAA proposal is approved.

In comments filed today, AOPA officially opposed a proposed prohibited area over the Hood Canal in Washington State. In the latest skirmish in the ongoing fight over unnecessary airspace restrictions, AOPA told the FAA that establishing a prohibited area over the Navy submarine base in Bangor, Washington, will create operational problems without enhancing safety. The new prohibited area, to be called P-51, would turn a temporary flight restriction (TFR) established following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks into a permanent one.

"This is a national concern, and AOPA members all over this country should be alarmed at the Navy's push to make this airspace prohibited," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "In addition to this Bangor prohibited area request, the Navy last month requested prohibited airspace in St. Mary's, Georgia, and if they succeed, there is no telling where they will go to next."

Pilots can add their voices to AOPA's by going to the Document Management System and filing comments objecting to this airspace grab. (Click on "Simple Search," and enter docket number 17178.)

In commenting, pilots should tell the FAA that the existing TFR has outlived its purpose and should be eliminated, not made permanent. Bolstering this argument is the fact that since September 11, 2001, the federal government has taken an active role in ensuring the security of general aviation with a multilayered system of security procedures to identify and thwart an act of terror before it occurs.

AOPA has consistently opposed the Bangor TFR in the Puget Sound area because of the adverse operational impact on general aviation, particularly seaplanes using the Hood Canal. Instead of turning it into prohibited airspace, AOPA recommends that the FAA establish a less restrictive national security area (NSA) over the site. Pilots are asked to voluntarily avoid flying through NSAs under normal circumstances, and notams can be issued to prohibit flight through a given NSA when necessary. An NSA is a much less restrictive solution that satisfies the Navy's legitimate security concerns.

"The Navy has already agreed to turn the other three Puget Sound TFRs into NSAs, and AOPA is telling the FAA that the Bangor TFR should also revert to an NSA," said Boyer.

"An NSA as an alternative to permanent prohibited airspace strikes a balance between ensuring our national security and allowing Americans to continue enjoying the freedoms our country is based upon," Andy Cebula, AOPA's senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs, wrote, adding that numerous other security procedures, ranging from photo ID requirements for pilots to AOPA's Airport Watch program, have been established to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Bangor is just the latest in a long line of attempts to make TFRs permanent and create new airspace restrictions. AOPA has been actively working nationwide to ensure that security needs are met without going overboard.

To file or view comments to the NPRM, go to the U.S. Department of Transportation's online Document Management System (DMS) and click on "Simple Search," and enter docket number 17178.

August 6, 2004