Phoenix Tracon proposal puts GA pilots too low

February 5, 2006

Phoenix Tracon proposal puts GA pilots too low
AOPA offers environmentally friendly alternative

Click for larger image

The Phoenix Tracon (terminal radar approach control facility) is using public scare tactics to push ahead with its proposal (see " My way or the airway") to change the Class B airspace to the detriment of the environment and general aviation. But at a public meeting last week, AOPA offered a simpler and safer alternative proposal endorsed by local GA pilots.

"Under the tracon's proposal, GA would be forced to fly only 500 to 1,000 feet above the Salt River Bald Eagle Breeding Area and the Superstition Mountains in the East Valley," said Stacy Howard, AOPA regional representative for Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. "Pilots are asked to fly at least 2,000 feet above these environmentally sensitive areas. They can't do that under the proposed changes."

And the tracon plan would create a much more complex airspace design that would likely lead to more inadvertent incursions.

During a public meeting last Thursday, Phoenix Tracon representatives claimed that a midair collision was "inevitable" unless the airspace was changed. They claimed conflicts between airliners descending for landing at Sky Harbor Airport and GA traffic using an established VFR flyway east of the airport.

"But there would be sufficient vertical separation if the airliners weren't descending below the glidepath," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic. "The tracon is allowing airliners to descend VFR some distance away from the airport, putting the airliners in conflict with crossing GA traffic in the flyway, and increasing the noise footprint for residents east of the airport. That seems to run counter to the FAA's general policy of keeping airliners high until very close to the airport."

AOPA also noted that VFR crossing corridors are used quite safely in the much busier and more constricted airspace around Los Angeles International Airport.

The GA user proposal for Phoenix presented by Howard would be much simpler than the tracon's proposal. It follows the FAA's general guidance that Class B airspace designs should be straightforward.

The GA design aligns many of the sectors with ground features or navigation aids, making it much easier for pilots to locate sector boundaries and remain in the appropriate airspace.

"The user's proposal would set the floor of the Class B over the East Valley at 7,000 feet, allowing pilots to maintain sufficient altitude above the environmentally sensitive areas," said Howard. "Our proposal would give the tracon the tools it needs to separate traffic into Sky Harbor Airport while giving GA pilots reasonable and safe access to airspace around the valley."

Another public meeting on the Phoenix Class B airspace proposal is scheduled for Tuesday, May 2, at the Pan Am International Flight Academy at Deer Valley Airport.

Written comments on the proposal should be submitted before June 3 to:

Manager, Air Traffic Western Terminal Service Area
Federal Aviation Administration
P.O. Box 92007
Los Angeles, CA 90009-2007

or to:

Air Traffic Manager, Arizona Hub
Federal Aviation Administration
2800 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85034

May 2, 2006