October 19, 2004
AOPA thinks some amendments are in order to the FAA "Flight Plan" - the agency's strategic plan of priorities through 2008. AOPA wants a few more waypoints added for general aviation.
Specifically, AOPA is calling for more emphasis on improvements to general aviation airports and better GA access to terminal airspace. And the association wants the FAA to be a stronger advocate on behalf of general aviation when it comes to security agencies restricting airspace access.
"One of our top member priorities is preserving and protecting airports," AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. He complimented the administrator on the agency's enforcement of rules that keep airports open to all users, and he noted that the Flight Plan incorporated an AOPA-endorsed proposal to use Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to improve reliever and secondary airports near major metropolitan areas.
Boyer said the FAA should devote more funding to adding instrument approaches to GA airports.
"As we recently discussed in person, AOPA believes that the FAA must include modernizing airports with precision instrument approach surveys, approach lighting, and precision runway markings to accommodate Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) approaches," Boyer told Blakey. "AOPA has long advocated for WAAS because it increases all-weather access for general aviation."
Access to airspace is another part of the FAA plan that needs improvement, according to AOPA.
Boyer noted that the current plan removed provisions for enhanced VFR access to metropolitan areas and other constrained airspace.
"I am concerned that this year's Flight Plan actually removes [this] strategy," Boyer said. "General aviation pilots use aircraft to access major metropolitan areas in the United States.... The FAA must provide better access to air traffic services in terminal areas, especially in and around Class B airspace." He said that using GPS-defined routes through busy airspace could improve safety and access for general aviation.
He called on the FAA to do a better job of providing advanced notice of airspace restrictions. "I realize this may require reform of the system used to disseminate critical information, the Notice to Airmen (notam) system. The GA community relies solely on the FAA for the timely and accurate dissemination of this information."
On the larger issue of airspace restrictions, Boyer asked the FAA to take a stronger role in educating security agencies about the consequences of restricting airspace. "A tremendous responsibility falls on the agency to educate those focused on homeland security on the impact of security-related airspace actions," he told Blakey.
Finally, on the subject of general aviation safety, Boyer encouraged the FAA to draw on industry resources, particularly the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.
Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg recently took the leadership of the government/industry Joint Steering Committee (JSC) for safer skies. "As you begin to develop and baseline a target accident rate for general aviation, we encourage you to use the JSC partnership," Boyer wrote. "This ensures your proposed baseline will align with the ongoing analysis already being conducted by the industry."
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