August 27, 2014
By Jim Moore
Proposed amendments to California state regulations that would have encroached on FAA authority by setting minimum altitudes over state wilderness areas and other locations (all of which are uncharted) have been scuttled, at least for the time being.
California officials had sought to require a 2,000-foot minimum altitude for flights over state wilderness areas, with a 500 foot agl minimum over “cultural preserves” and “natural preserves.”
AOPA opposed the overflight limits, which were drafted as part of a larger package of state park regulatory changes, when they were first proposed in 2013 by the Natural Resources Agency. The agency had proposed the changes to state Department of Parks and Recreation regulations. AOPA reiterated this message when the proposed rules were opened for comment in March. AOPA continued to oppose the proposed changes in formal letters and meetings with various state officials in April.
The state Office of Administrative Law short-circuited the need for additional advocacy efforts on this issue, for now: An Aug. 14 ruling found fault with various procedural issues, noting that the agencies involved had failed to “summarize and respond to all of the public comments” as required by state law, or “include in the rulemaking file all data and other factual information, technical, theoretical, and empirical studies or reports, if any, on which the [agency] relied” in drafting the regulation changes. The state review also found the proposed changes lacking in the clarity required by state law.
AOPA told state officials (as the association has done in many instances involving attempts by state or local governments to create aviation rules or regulations) that the FAA, under federal law, retains sole authority to regulate airspace. Congress stipulated that in part to avoid having a patchwork of inconsistent rules and regulations, and avoid having pilots who are fully compliant with federal regulations be potentially cited for violations of rules unknown to them.
AOPA noted that pilots have already been briefed on how to “fly friendly” with Advisory Circular 91-36D detailing voluntary guidelines that reduce potential impact of aviation in noise sensitive areas. AOPA has repeatedly offered to work with state officials and pilots to continue spreading the word and educating pilots about the benefits and importance of “fly friendly” practices, and remains willing and able to assist in such efforts.
The California Pilots Association and California Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics also opposed the proposal to establish state aeronautical regulations.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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