September 17, 2009
By Sarah Brown
Proposed changes to the Condor Military Operations Area (MOA) near Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine, would degrade safety for general aviation and military pilots who would be operating in the expanded airspace, AOPA told the Air National Guard Sept. 17.
Commenting on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposal that would expand the existing Condor 1 and 2 MOAs, AOPA expressed safety concerns about the plan.
“Placing high speed, low altitude military aircraft into airspace that is regularly occupied by slower moving, less equipped general aviation (GA) aircraft increases the potential for mid-air collisions,” wrote AOPA Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman. “This low altitude airspace is used extensively for flight training, transitioning, sightseeing and seaplane operations.”
The proposal would combine the footprint of the existing Condor 1 and 2 MOAs into one large Condor High MOA from 7,000 feet msl to 18,000 feet msl, with a low-altitude Condor Low underlying the other MOA from 500 feet agl to 6,999 feet msl. The military training airspace is used by the 104th Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
AOPA is concerned about the safety implications of lowered floor of Condor Low. According to Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), radar coverage and communications within the footprint of the proposed MOA is intermittent to non-existent below 7,000 feet. This would render air traffic control separation assistance and onboard radar useless.
No-fly zones around bald eagle habitats within the proposed MOA expansion would limit the usefulness of the military airspace, and Hackman suggested the military consider using existing special use airspace (SUA) instead. The Adirondack Airspace Complex near Ft. Drum, N.Y., is currently being modified and could likely be expanded to meet National Guard training requirements, he said. This expansion should be able to accommodate the training proposed in Condor MOA with far less impact on the GA community.
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