AOPA touts flexibility for Hudson River

October 15, 2009

AOPA responded to the FAA this week regarding its proposed rulemaking to improve safety in the Hudson River Class B exclusion zone. The association told the FAA that the rulemaking, together with other changes, effectively addresses safety concerns while considering the needs of airspace users. The FAA had established a working group to develop recommendations to enhance the safety of the airspace after the tragic midair collision over New York’s Hudson River in August.

AOPA participated in the working group convened by the FAA as one of only three non-governmental participants to determine the best way to enhance safety in the corridor. Acting on the group’s recommendations, the FAA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to create a special flight rules area (SFRA) that would codify current best practices, standardize the ceiling of the SFRA, and separate transient aircraft from local traffic.

In comments on the NPRM, AOPA Vice President and Assistant to the President Melissa Rudinger wrote that the collaborative approach took into consideration the corridor’s four decades of safe operation and resulted in positive safety developments without adversely affecting users. She urged the FAA to continue to be open to industry input and possible changes to the new rules.

“This approach provided a venue for discussion and development of recommendations that should enhance the level of safety of operation within the Hudson River exclusion,” Rudinger wrote.

The Hudson River working group also provided additional recommendations that do not require rulemaking. The FAA is already implementing these changes, which include airspace delegation, revised procedures at the Teterboro control tower, the addition of a Class B VFR transition route, charting enhancements, and standardized training for pilots.

“It is important that all of these changes be considered in their entirety when evaluating the overall safety enhancements within the Hudson River exclusion,” Rudinger wrote.

While the changes being proposed and those being implemented represent the results of a collaborative effort to enhance safety over the Hudson River, AOPA emphasized to the FAA that changes to airspace and operations as dynamic as those within the Hudson River exclusion may have unintended consequences that prove unacceptable. If users run into operational issues, the agency should be willing to re-evaluate procedures in the airspace and make changes as necessary, Rudinger said.

“With this in mind, we ask that the FAA continue to maintain its willingness to address concerns that may arise from users of the Hudson River Corridor in a timely manner,” Rudinger wrote. She said any of the changes currently being enacted might warrant adjustments.

“AOPA is committed to remaining engaged in this issue and will report to the FAA all operational issues brought to our attention by members,” she added. “We ask that the FAA consider reconvening the working group at a predetermined time in the future to evaluate the impact of the changes to the Hudson River exclusion and to address any changes that may need to be further evaluated.”