October 20, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Many pilots avoid special-use airspace, or undertake long, costly circumnavigations of it, often because they are not able to determine if it is active. Checking times of designation of a restricted area on a navigation chart and notices to airmen during preflight briefings, and contacting the controlling agency while aloft, should provide the information needed for proper planning.
But it’s not always a perfect match. AOPA has often urged that real-time airspace status updates be made available to pilots to make airspace use even more efficient. Until real-time status updates are available, charted times of use and actual times of use should match as closely as possible.
In Dare County, N.C., the Air Force and the FAA have taken a step toward that goal with the issue of a final rule stating the scaled-back times of designation of an airspace complex south and west of the Dare County Regional Airport.
Effective Dec. 15, two 11-hour blocks of time on Saturdays and Sundays will be eliminated from designation for eight blocks of restricted airspace, “thereby increasing public access to the airspace,” said the FAA.
The FAA will give at least six hours notice of any other times to be designated for military activity. No airspace boundaries, designated altitudes, or types of activity were changed.
“The Air Force and the FAA have demonstrated good stewardship of the National Airspace System by giving back the airspace when it is not needed for military use,” said Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of air traffic services.
In addition to thorough preflight planning and requesting updates while aloft, pilots can enhance their knowledge and comfort by reviewing the requirements of various airspace classes, and by taking the Air Safety Institute’s interactive course, Know Before You Go: Navigating Today’s Airspace .
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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