AOPA blasts FAA over moored balloon experiment

December 30, 2003

Loretta J. Martin, Acting Manager
Airspace Branch, AEA-520
FAA Eastern Region
1 Aviation Plaza
Jamaica, New York, 11434

RE: Airspace Case Number 03-AEA-0044-NR

Dear Ms. Martin:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing over 400,000 general aviation pilots, is opposed to the proposal by Millersville University, Department of Earth Science plan for a January 2, 2004, launch of a moored balloon to an altitude of 3,600 msl for atmospheric studies. AOPA bases this opposition on potential safety impacts and a lack of advanced notice to pilots.

The altitudes of the lit moored balloon as proposed in the study conflict with the 2,600 ft MSL Minimum Obstruction Clearance Altitude (MOCA) for V93 and V457. In an emergency descent from the 4,500 ft MSL Minimum En-Route Instrument Altitude (MEA) to the MOCA altitude, the moored balloon creates a serious collision hazard. In addition, the moored balloon would conflict with the MEA for V469 currently at 3,000 ft MSL. Clearly, there are safety issues that must be addressed before the moored balloon study commences.

AOPA is also very concerned with the lack of advanced notification of the atmospheric studies. Additional time is necessary for users to adequately comment on the associated impacts created by the moored balloon before a study can commence. Receiving comments after the fact does not solve safety issues created by the moored balloon and will result in compromising the safety of many pilots transiting the airspace.

We request that the FAA take immediate action to prohibit the use of the National Airspace for the upcoming atmospheric studies until the safety issues can be resolved.

Sincerely,

Brent Hart
Government Analyst

December 30, 2003