FAA working to eliminate non-RNAV departure detours

September 15, 2010

AOPA recently heard from members who have experienced excessive reroutes when departing San Antonio bound for the Houston area. Based on member input, AOPA contacted the FAA to get some background and understand the issue.

As a result of air traffic procedural changes ongoing in the Houston airspace area, the FAA has made a number of changes ultimately resulting in nearly a 100-nautical-mile reroute for non-RNAV capable aircraft departing San Antonio eastbound--as highlighted in a San Antonio Tower Letter to Airmen No. 10-01, enacted in conjunction with the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, containing this provision: “Aircraft that are not RNAV capable will be routed south bound over Three Rivers (THX) and Corpus Christi (CRP).”

A clerical error was the reason why a new departure procedure for non-RNAV-equipped aircraft departing eastbound from the San Antonio area did not go into effect simultaneously with new departure procedures from Houston International (IAH). The new San Antonio departures, which were intended to spare non-RNAV-equipped aircraft extensive detours, will become effective with the Sept. 23 charting cycle, the FAA says.

The FAA indicates that the existing reroutes are the result of a conflict between new westbound departures from Houston and the eastbound departures from San Antonio. As AOPA shared, the new Houston routes are more efficient for airlines operating between SAT and IAH but come at the significant expense to operational efficiency and flexibility for general aviation operators.

“A detour of 100 miles results in approximately one hour of additional flight time for most single-engine piston aircraft, our core membership. The magnitude of this detour significantly impacts IFR operators in the area,” said Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of air traffic services. “We are pleased that the FAA is quickly working to resolve this conflict and members will have more direct departure options in the coming week.”