154 instrument approaches could face chopping block

August 27, 2009

In its latest round of proposals to cancel instrument approaches, the FAA extended its scope from slashing NDB approaches at airports that also had RNAV approaches to also include cutting VOR and GPS approaches. Of the 154 approaches that the FAA is considering canceling, 64 are VOR approaches, and 19 are circling GPS approaches.

AOPA supports the FAA’s efforts to eliminate redundant ground-based procedures and shift its resources to developing more satellite-based GPS-WAAS approaches, which deliver better all-weather access, vertical guidance, and lower minimums than conventional nonprecision approaches. However, the association wants to make sure needed approaches aren’t canceled.

“AOPA is reviewing each approach to ensure that the FAA doesn’t cancel an approach that would negatively impact IFR access to the airport or result in higher weather minimums,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs. “But we also need pilots to let us know how these approach cancelations would affect their flying. Local knowledge is critical in this process.”

The FAA has been canceling redundant approaches for several years in an effort to help fund new GPS approaches. So far, the agency has produced 1,670 WAAS approaches with vertical guidance and ILS-like minimums. AOPA has worked with pilots and the FAA each time to preserve approaches that would maintain access to the airport, support instrument training, and keep the lowest possible weather minimums.

“AOPA looks forward to an increasing number of GPS-WAAS approaches, but we must be careful that ground-based approaches are not removed before users are ready,” Hackman said. “And that’s where we need help from pilots who fly at these airports and are familiar with the approaches offered.”

AOPA has posted online a list of the approaches being considered for elimination. Pilots are encouraged to review the list and consider how an approach’s cancellation would affect instrument operations at that particular airport. Then submit comments on the proposal to AOPA by Sept. 24 and to the FAA by Oct. 1. Comments to the FAA can be sent to the National Flight Procedures Office, AJW-32, P.O. Box 25082, Oklahoma City, OK 73125.