Judges hear AOPA's case against Phoenix Class B redesign

September 18, 2008

After the FAA unexpectedly modified the VFR flyway through Phoenix Class B airspace during a larger airspace redesign, AOPA filed suit, claiming that the FAA neglected to follow its own rules for creating and modifying airspace. The association also alleges that the FAA has not adequately addressed the airspace compression caused by the redesign or provided proof that the modifications were even needed.

Recently, the U.S. Appeals Court heard arguments from both sides.

“We’re holding the FAA accountable,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “The FAA can’t choose what airspace changes it wants to keep quiet and what changes it will offer for user input.”

The FAA asserted that it did not need to specifically address the VFR flyway or talk about available altitudes because pilots can receive clearance to fly through the airspace.

AOPA pointed out the errors in the FAA’s rationale, explaining that all modifications should have been discussed with user groups because the airspace redesign follows a regulatory process, which allows for public comment. The association also explained to the presiding judges that while general aviation VFR pilots can receive clearance to fly through Class B airspace, that request is rarely granted.

The judges are currently reviewing written briefs and the oral arguments made by both sides. A decision to uphold the redesign or make changes may not be reached for six months.