June 20, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
The FAA is seeking comments on a proposal to amend the boundaries of the Class B airspace centered on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington state. The amended plan contains a proposal AOPA supported: using varying ceiling heights in the airspace—something the FAA has not done in the past. The plan also makes concessions to concerns expressed by the association and others about elements of earlier designs.
Overall, the new Class B airspace as amended would have a reduced footprint, and allow for more efficient general aviation operations to take place in the vicinity but outside of the Class B boundaries. The plan makes minor boundary and floor changes in some areas—seen having no significant impact on GA. The amended plan would eliminate an airspace sector that AOPA had previously challenged. The FAA had said the sector was necessary for containing aircraft arriving and departing Boeing Field/King County International Airport, but that airport does not meet the criteria for Class B airspace.
The FAA said that it had considered recommendations from organizations and individuals who supplied comments, and agreed that a variable-height Class B ceiling over Seattle-Tacoma was justified by local geographic considerations.
If enacted, the design would make Seattle the first Class B airspace in the country to have more than one ceiling height: 10,000 feet msl for the core sectors, and 7,000 feet msl for perimeter sectors. Such a configuration would accomplish the goal of containing Seattle-Tacoma airport arrivals and departures within the Class B airspace while still availing as much airspace as possible for GA traffic operating outside Class B airspace.
AOPA is reviewing details of the amended design, and will submit formal comments. Members are urged to take this final opportunity to comment on the airspace design.
Members are encouraged to submit comments online (search for docket FAA-2011-0232) or by mail by Aug. 16 to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue S.E., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Submissions should identify FAA Docket No. FAA-2011-0232 and Airspace Docket No. 11-AWA-3 at the beginning of the comments. Please share your ideas or a copy of your comments with AOPA.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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