Changes, more public comment asked for Nev. airspace plan

December 6, 2012

AOPA has requested that the FAA continue to mitigate the impact on general aviation of planned modifications to the Class B airspace in Las Vegas, Nev. The association also cited a lack of accurate information on an FAA website about the airspace plan in asking for a 30-day extension of time for public comment, now set to expire Dec. 26.

General aviation flights would be safer and more efficient around Las Vegas if the proposed airspace revision included better routing options for both visual and instrument flights, AOPA said.

Throughout the rulemaking process, AOPA has opposed the FAA’s plan to raise the Class B airspace ceiling from 9,000 feet msl to 10,000 feet msl. There remains “no clear justification” to do so, AOPA said.

“While AOPA understands ATC’s desire for more airspace to increase flexibility in sequencing and speed control, the FAA must understand that such an expansion of Class B airspace will substantially decrease flexibility, efficiency, and safety for general aviation aircraft operating outside of the Class B boundaries,” wrote Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA senior government analyst for air traffic services in formal comments submitted Dec. 7. “Piston powered aircraft are significantly impacted by density altitude constraints. Any increase to the Las Vegas Class B ceiling height will limit the number of aircraft able to climb over the Class B, and will substantially increase the time, expense, and fuel required in doing so.”

The FAA took a constructive step by including numerous new VFR waypoints in the proposal to help pilots navigate the airspace, she said. Those gains created an opportunity to address a “real need” for a VFR transition route that would be accessible with “routine and consistent availability” through the airspace.

AOPA appreciates the FAA’s establishment of a website to provide information on the airspace modification proposal. But the association described as “disconcerting” the agency’s failure to update the site to keep the public “accurately informed” since the notice of proposed rulemaking was published in October.

The lack of updates, an absence of public comments on the airspace plan to date, and the expiration of the comment period Dec. 26—between two federal holidays—all argued for a 30-day extension of the comment period deadline, McCaffrey said.
Members may now comment by Dec. 26 online or by mail to U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M– 30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590–0001.Please cite FAA Docket No. FAA–2012–0966 and Airspace Docket No. 12–AWA–5, at the beginning of your comments. Please share your comments with AOPA.