AOPA concerned about New Mexico SUA expansion plan

February 2, 2005

AOPA concerned about New Mexico SUA expansion plan

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FAA again extends comment period on expansion of military airspace in Indiana
AOPA pushes for better GA access

The FAA has again extended the comment period on a proposal to expand special-use military airspace in southern Indiana. The proposal would create two military operations areas, the JPG and Racer MOAs, for the U.S. Air Force. AOPA filed comments in November contending that the MOA proposal could severely restrict general aviation access to important flight routes and instrument approaches.

The FAA has received more than 100 comments so far. The new comment deadline is February 28.

AOPA recommended that the floor of the proposed JPG A MOA be raised from 500 feet above ground level (agl) to 3,500 feet mean sea level (msl) to allow traffic to fly below the special-use airspace. Making these changes would preserve GA access without impeding military operations.

If the MOA proposal is not modified as AOPA recommends, V51, one of the main Victor airways connecting Indianapolis, Indiana, and Louisville, Kentucky, would be essentially off-limits to general aviation pilots. The airway would be restricted below Flight Level 180. The other Victor airway that connects the two cities, V53, has a minimum en route altitude of 10,000 feet msl, which is near the operational ceiling limit of many general aviation aircraft.

"With the current proposal, pilots will lose access to an airway connecting two major cities," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "Instrument approaches into some public-use airports will be affected as well. That's why AOPA is recommending a change in the airspace floor that will allow pilots to continue transiting the area."

The Racer MOA would abut the western and southern boundaries of R-3401A/B (Camp Atterbury) and extend west for 4 nm and south/southwest for 23 nm. The JPG MOA would be added to the north and west boundaries of R-3403A/B and extend north for 9 nm and southwest for 36 nm.

IFR operations at some public-use airports inside the JPG MOA would be limited. Pilots would be unable to fly three of the instrument approaches into Freeman Municipal (SER), and an ILS approach that is to be activated at the airport next year would be off-limits during the active times. A missed approach procedure at Madison Municipal (IMS) also would be affected.

AOPA also is seeking to mitigate the impact of the proposed MOAs by requesting a reduction in the active times. The proposal makes the MOAs active almost all day; however, the Air Force actually plans to use the airspace less than an hour a day.

Comments on the proposal should be sent to:

Federal Aviation Administration
Central Terminal Operations
Attn: Manager, Airspace Branch (AGL-520)
2300 East Devon Avenue, Room 247
Des Plains, IL 60018

The 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base has initiated a proposal to expand Melrose Air Force Range by creating a new Capitan MOA and enlarging the existing Pecos MOA complex. The expansion of special-use airspace (SUA) is part of a New Mexico Training Range Initiative. But AOPA is concerned about the impact on GA.

"This proposed expansion would negatively affect two Victor airways and force pilots flying between Roswell and Albuquerque to fly under, or deviate 176 nautical miles around, the MOAs," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services.

The Air Force is seeking comments through February 21 on the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the New Mexico Training Range Initiative.

The initiative would create the Capitan MOA to connect the Pecos and Beak MOAs and extend from 12,500 feet msl (7,200 feet agl) to 50,000 feet msl. Capitan would be active about two hours a day, approximately 24 days a year. While the airspace is active, V68-83 that runs from the Corona VOR to Roswell International Air Center would be off-limits to IFR traffic above 12,500 feet msl.

"A lack of real-time airspace status information in an area already dominated by special-use airspace will make it difficult for pilots to plan flights," Williams said.

The proposal would expand the borders of the Pecos MOA to the east, west, and south to coincide with the existing Pecos and Sumner ATC Assigned Airspace (ATCAA) boundaries, and drop the floor to 500 feet agl. Expansion to the west would impact V291, which also runs between the Corona VOR and Roswell, essentially closing the airway every weekday for most of the day. Pecos also is approved for lights-out training, in which military aircraft conduct exercises at night without any exterior lighting. [See the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's "Mission: Possible" online course.]

Supersonic flight in the Melrose Air Force Range would be lowered from the current level of above 30,000 feet msl to above 10,000 feet msl. That translates to 5,000 to 6,000 feet agl - altitudes frequently used by much slower general aviation aircraft.

The Sumner ATCAA would be extended to the north to conform to the existing northern boundary of the Pecos MOA. The proposal also relocates jet route J-74 between 5 to 7 nm to the north to remain outside the expanded Sumner ATCAA.

Comments on the proposed SUA expansion should be sent to:

Ms. Brenda Cook
HZ ACC/CEVP
129 Andrews St., Ste 102
Langley AFB, VA 23665-2769

February 2, 2005