August 23, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
A new configuration for Salt Lake City, Utah’s Class B airspace that takes effect Oct. 18 makes some concessions to general aviation but will still present operational challenges—including a higher ceiling and the overall expansion of the airspace—AOPA said.
Under the final rule, the FAA will raise the Class B ceiling from 10,000 feet msl to 12,000 feet msl, citing the need to “ensure containment of large turbine-powered aircraft” in the airspace. A 10,000-foot floor that AOPA had requested be set no lower than 10,500 feet in the Francis Peak area will remain as proposed.
“Overall, there are some positive changes in the final rule. The FAA mitigated some areas that were of concern for AOPA, but there remain components of the design that did not change, and will negatively affect general aviation operations,” said Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA senior government analyst for air traffic.
In formal comments in March 2011 during the Class B modification process, AOPA objected to the higher ceiling, which will reduce available airspace for overflights of the Class B airspace by general aviation aircraft, forcing many to fly inefficient routes around the airspace at lower altitudes. AOPA had also requested that the floor be set no lower than 10,500 feet in the area of Francis Peak because of terrain height in the sector. Also, AOPA pointed out that the minimum vectoring altitude for IFR traffic in the sector is 10,600 feet.
The FAA rejected as “impractical” a recommendation to establish a VFR corridor through the airspace, citing conflicts with departures from Salt Lake City International Airport.
However, “the FAA has published frequencies, altitudes, and VFR transition and flyway routes on the Salt Lake City Terminal Area Chart to minimize the Class B airspace modification impact to VFR aircraft. The published VFR transition routes are established at 10,500 feet msl for westbound traffic and at 11,500 feet msl for eastbound traffic,” said the final rule.
The FAA also noted that it had incorporated VFR flyway modification recommendations on the VFR Flyway Planning Chart.
McCaffrey urged pilots to familiarize themselves with the final airspace rule and its potential effects on their flight operations before the Oct.18 effective date.
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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