July 5, 2012
By Sarah Brown
Swaths of restricted airspace will take effect in the area of Devils Lake, N.D., July 26—but pilots won’t see a hint of them on current sectional charts.
The FAA finalized the establishment of seven new restricted areas June 20 to accommodate operations of laser-equipped unmanned aircraft systems, but the airspace was nowhere to be found on the Twin Cities Sectional released eight days later. AOPA has urged the FAA to ensure that such safety-critical information is easily accessible to pilots, but the agency has indicated it has no plans to delay the implementation of the restricted airspace or issue a supplement to the chart.
“We’ve seen an alarming trend the past few years where airspace changes don’t align with charting dates,” said AOPA Vice President of Air Traffic Modernization Heidi Williams. “Pilots could be flying into restricted airspace and know nothing about it. Safety-of-flight information must be available in the cockpit—that’s where it’s needed.”
The restricted areas, R-5402, R-5403A, R-5403B, R-5403C, R-5403D, R-5403E, and R-5403F, will be charted in the January 2013 sectional; the FAA has not made clear publicly how it will notify pilots of the new restricted airspace in the meantime.
The new areas, located within the Devils Lake Military Operations Area, represent the first restricted airspace created to accommodate unmanned aircraft system operations. The FAA argued that while unmanned aircraft alone do not constitute a “hazardous operation” and require restricted airspace—as AOPA pointed out—the addition of lasers warranted the restrictions. AOPA opposes the creation of restricted airspace specifically for unmanned aircraft systems unable to “sense and avoid” other traffic, and has expressed concern that the Devils Lake restricted areas could open the door for the military or other government agencies to add lasers to their unmanned aircraft systems and obtain restricted airspace.
Safety and Education
With a closing speed of about 900 knots, Air Force pilots on a training mission have seconds to aim and shoot heat-seeking and radar guided missiles at a drone target. Their success came from repeated rehearsals. But as author Larry Brown writes, “there is nothing like the real thing to gain experience.”
AOPA staff members updated attendees of the Montana Aviation Conference Feb. 27 through March 1 on the association's involvement in issues that affect pilots.
Pilots from Maine and New England turned out in numbers for the annual Maine Aviation Forum hosted by EAA Chapter 1434.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.