Part 77 obstruction rules might adversely affect GA airports, says AOPA

September 22, 2006

Part 77 obstruction rules might adversely affect GA airports, says AOPA

Radio tower

AOPA is recommending some additional changes to the FAA's update of airspace protection regulations (Part 77) to protect smaller general aviation airports.

"AOPA generally supports the changes the FAA has proposed, but there are some things that might have a negative affect on GA airports," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "We're asking for additional analysis before the rule changes become final."

AOPA's greatest concern is the proposal to expand the "imaginary primary surface" at many GA airports with nonprecision instrument approaches. To over-simplify a bit, this is a protected area surrounding the runway in which no obstructions are allowed.

The problem is that this would decrease the amount of land available for taxiways, aprons, and hangars. It would prevent some smaller airports from making any such improvements because they wouldn't have enough space under the proposed rules.

It could also affect existing structures, because facilities that were acceptable distances away from the runway could possibly be labeled "obstructions" under the new rules.

AOPA called for the FAA to conduct additional analysis before implementing the rule changes. "Simply put, smaller GA airports cannot comply financially with the same standards applicable at larger hub airports," AOPA said. And with the smaller size and slower speeds of the aircraft typically using GA airports, the standards don't need to be the same.

The association also recommended that the FAA reduce its obstruction standard from 499 feet to 400 feet above the surface. That would allow for safer operations for airspace users flying at the 500-foot minimum safe altitude in uncongested areas.

AOPA supported codifying the electromagnetic interference obstruction standards to better protect aviation communication and navigation radio transmissions.

The proposal to add obstruction protection for private-use airports with approved instrument approach procedures also met with AOPA's approval, along with increasing the advance warning period for construction of or alteration to an obstructing structure from 30 to 60 days.

September 22, 2006