March 23, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA, the FAA, and the Air Force are working cooperatively to enhance the safety and efficiency of flights in and around the Luke Air Force Base Special Air Traffic Rule (SATR) area in Glendale, Ariz. Those efforts continued in a Feb. 28 meeting at which several follow-up actions were decided. The meeting resulted from member concerns and requests for clarification on some of the operating practices when flying within the Luke airspace boundaries.
The SATR requires pilots to establish and maintain two-way radio communication with Luke Radar Approach Control (Rapcon) when operating in the airspace. However, pilots operating from nearby Phoenix Deer Valley, Glendale Municipal, and Phoenix Goodyear airports have expressed concerns about compression of traffic resulting from the SATR’s proximity. Luke controllers also issue discrete transponder codes to aircraft transiting the airspace. Squawk codes are not required, but they help controllers deliver services and maintain aircraft separation, thereby enhancing safety. Pilots who routinely participate in the radar services available from Luke Rapcon will only further promote safety in the SATR area.
"We are grateful for the general aviation community's willing participation in the basic radar services offered by Luke Approach," said Luke Rapcon Chief Controller Gregg Mowrer. "Since the inception of the SATR in May 2010, Luke Approach has serviced over 41,000 VFR operators with zero NMAC (near midair collision) incidents. Local flight safety has improved significantly as a direct result of the GA community’s efforts and we thank them for their cooperation.”
Several follow-up actions were agreed to by meeting participants, in which AOPA’s Heidi Williams, senior director of airspace and modernization; Stacy Howard, western regional representative; and Tom Kramer, manager of air traffic services, discussed the concerns raised by members about operations in and around the SATR.
AOPA, the FAA, and the Air Force all agreed that continued education and outreach is key to ensuring pilots have the information needed to safely transit the Luke SATR airspace area. In addition, the FAA is working to pursue enhancements to the Phoenix Terminal area chart and sectional as requested by local users with the goal of more clearly defining the SATR’s boundaries. And Phoenix Tracon proposed creating a digital pilot-education course covering SATR operations. Pilots could take the course online—which would be especially helpful to pilots who would be transiting the airspace and are unfamiliar with the area. AOPA will provide a link to the course when it is available.
All parties agreed to remain engaged and to continue their productive collaboration to improve operations in the SATR that was implemented in May 2010.
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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