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June 4, 2005
In its efforts to help the FAA cut costs and become more efficient, AOPA has supported the agency's efforts to eliminate redundant NDB approaches. But some of those approaches are still needed to satisfy members' needs. So AOPA has given the FAA a list of 57 NDB approaches that the agency should keep active because they provide the lowest minimums, or because they're important to AOPA members.
After the FAA proposed eliminating some 479 NDB approaches that it considered redundant, AOPA specialists researched each one. And what they found was that in 25 cases, the NDB approach was the best one available.
"It is critical that the cancellation of the NDB approach at an airport should not result in a loss of operational capability due to higher minima in the remaining procedures," AOPA told the FAA, submitting the association's recommendations for procedures that should be retained.
"Any reduction in NDB approach service should be taken with great care to ensure that comparable, alternative approach procedures are in place so that users are able to continue their flight operation (be it for training or actual IFR) with minimal adverse cost or operational impact."
For example, canceling the NDB approach to Raton Municipal Airport (RTN) in New Mexico would result in a "penalty" of a 1,000-foot increase in the minimum descent altitude (MDA). That's because the only other ground-based navigation aid for RTN is a VOR some 23 miles away.
AOPA also solicited input from its members, and based on that, the association recommended that the FAA retain another 32 NDB approaches.
In many cases, members indicated that they needed the approaches for training, as still required by the FAA's practical test standards. To that, AOPA told the agency, "The FAA needs to shift the pilot testing and evaluation emphasis away from NDB procedures."
Other members said that they regularly used some of the approaches, either as a backup or because they didn't have approach-capable GPS units installed. AOPA recommended that the FAA maintain the NDB approaches at those specific airports to meet the needs of pilots actively using the system.
( See the list of NDB procedures that should be retained.)
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