Changes could lessen military airspace plan’s impact on GA

May 19, 2011

The proposed expansion of special-use airspace in Twentynine Palms, Calif., would close off a corridor of airspace used by general aviation, forcing pilots to find alternate routes, AOPA told the Navy.

The Navy is soliciting comments on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed expansion of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The association suggested improvements to the proposal that would allow the Marines to accomplish their training goals with less impact on GA operations.

The expanded airspace is being requested to accommodate large military exercises, but would only be used for a maximum of 48 days per year, AOPA pointed out in its comments. Such limited use would be better addressed by a temporary military operations area (MOA) instead of charting airspace that would go unused for 87 percent of the time, the association said.

The Twentynine Palms airspace complex sits in a high-density air traffic corridor, compounding the impacts of an expansion on GA. AOPA suggested raising the floor of the proposed CAX MOA to permit transitions by GA. The Navy’s proposal would close off a corridor of airspace between two large MOAs, forcing pilots to find alternate routes through or around the airspace complex and increasing time en route and expense. 

Any expansion of the Twentynine Palms airspace westward would encroach on operations at Blackhawk Mountain near Big Bear, a popular soaring area, AOPA added. No. 2 of six alternatives would have the least impact on soaring operations, and combined with a temporary MOA, would greatly mitigate the impact on GA, the association said.

Comments are accepted through May 26 and may be submitted online. Also send a copy of your comments to AOPA.