September 27, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
The FAA will delay by 30 days its planned Oct. 1 implementation of an airspace procedure affecting flights using Pearson Field in Vancouver, Wash., just northwest of Portland (Ore.) International Airport. The agency has also committed to holding education sessions with pilots in the interim—several of which will be announced at a later date.
Bowing to pressure from the two states’ congressional delegations, aviation groups, and local pilots, the FAA announced the delay Sept. 26, and issued a letter to airmen describing the airspace procedure—details that had been urgently sought by AOPA and users of Pearson Field.
When news of the impending activation of the airspace procedure—which is not a rule, as described in some media reports—came to light, pilots, aviation organizations, and both states’ congressional delegations expressed concern about a lack of details available to pilots, and the short timetable for activation.
Requests for the delay also followed in a meeting with the FAA and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate aviation subcommittee, John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). They also urged a more open decision-making process.
Several months prior, it appeared for a time that a resolution to the traffic issues raised by the airports’ proximity was in hand. A temporary control tower was tested at Pearson Field from April 2011 to April 2012. While the tests appeared to be successful in addressing all safety concerns, the FAA has indicated otherwise.
Following the FAA’s announcement of the delay, AOPA Vice President of Air Traffic Services and Modernization Heidi Williams expressed satisfaction that pilots would have more time to digest any pending changes and the agency would have ample time to reach out to the operating community.
Williams credited local pilots working with the Washington and Oregon Pilots associations, AOPA, and the congressional delegation with “a real concerted and collaborative effort” to ensure proper outreach and the necessary process is followed to ensure the operating community has been properly briefed and has the opportunity to engage with the agency.
A pilot briefing on the airspace procedures is scheduled for Sept. 29 at 11 a.m.at the Pearson Air Museum Restoration Hangar, located at 101 E Reserve St., Vancouver, Wash., 98661. It is the hangar located immediately to the left of the airport's main gate entrance.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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