California restriction would tread on FAA turf

August 14, 2013

A California state government agency’s proposal to enact an overflight restriction within state wilderness, cultural, and natural preserves usurps the FAA’s ability to regulate airspace and provides no mechanisms for ascertaining aircraft altitudes, enforcement, or pilot notification of the location of restrictions, AOPA said in a formal response.

The proposed rule states that "there shall be no use of motorized vehicles, motorized equipment, or motorboats, no landing or hovering of aircraft, no flying of aircraft lower than 2,000 feet above the ground" in affected areas.

Pilots already "fly friendly," avoiding altitudes below 2,000 feet agl over sensitive areas, and the proposal fails to address the impact on airports within preserve boundaries, AOPA said in comments opposing the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s notice of proposed rulemaking.

"General aviation pilots already voluntarily follow guidance contained in the FAA’s Advisory Circular (AC) 91-36D, Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Flights Near Noise Sensitive Areas," wrote Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of airspace and modernization. "This AC provides guidance to pilots for avoiding flight operations below 2,000 feet in noise sensitive areas such as wildlife refuges and nature preserves, something General Aviation pilots are typically very good at ensuring in order to be good neighbors."

Citing the rule's unknown effects, implications, and conflict with FAA jurisdiction over airspace, AOPA strongly urged California officials to rescind the proposed rule and instead "work collaboratively with the FAA" to educate pilots about overflights of sensitive areas.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.