Pilots encouraged to ‘fly friendly’ over marine sanctuaries

NOAA cautioned on bid to restrict airspace

March 23, 2011

AOPA is ready to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to encourage pilots to “fly friendly” in the vicinity of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and other noise-sensitive areas.

Pilots will be urged to comply with FAA guidance to avoid overflight of noise-sensitive areas at less than 2,000 feet agl. The guidance, contained in FAA Advisory Circular 91-36D, is recommended, not mandatory.

AOPA said it would work to educate pilots about voluntary compliance with recommended flight altitudes, but continues to question NOAA’s authority to impose overflight restriction zones over marine sanctuaries. Any such mandate should be enacted by the FAA through the normal rulemaking process, AOPA said in formal comments on the NOAA’s proposed revisions of rules for the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary in Washington state. 

“AOPA has agreed to collaborate with NOAA on pilot outreach and education to ‘fly friendly’ in accordance with the recommendations contained in the Federal Aviation Administration’s AC 91-36D,” wrote Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of air traffic services in the formal comments submitted March 22.

“It is AOPA’s belief that any mandate or requirement beyond these terms must be enacted by the FAA following the standard rulemaking process,” he wrote.

The proposed rule changes include language stating that NOAA will improve compliance with the Washington sanctuary’s “wildlife disturbance mitigation (overflight restriction) zone through collaboration” with AOPA and the Washington Pilots Association “to improve outreach products for and communication with local pilots.”

AOPA reported on Feb. 3, concerns that NOAA had proposed unprecedented flight restrictions and penalties for violations at the Washington state sanctuary and three marine sanctuaries in California—proposals that could result in an unmanageable “patchwork” of regulations. AOPA urged the FAA to clarify its position on the NOAA’s bid to assume authority for airspace regulation over marine sanctuaries.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Management Plan and related information may be viewed at the sanctuary’s website.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.