FAA should drop flawed airway changes, seek input

February 27, 2014

AOPA will request that the FAA drop a proposal to eliminate some airway segments in connection with the scheduled decommissioning of the Peck, Mich., VOR. The association continues to urge the agency to seek user input before taking "significant policy action" that could adversely affect general aviation. Members are encouraged to submit comments on the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking by March 31, as provided below.

The FAA has proposed to eliminate segments of V-84 and V-337 that touch the VOR located 46 miles northeast of Flint, Mich., leaving insufficient route infrastructure in place in the area. Several jet routes would also be modified. In a portion of the proposal unrelated to the Peck VOR, the FAA also proposes to eliminate segments of airways V-216 between Janesville, Wis., and Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and V-320 between Saginaw, Mich., and Toronto, citing low usage.

AOPA will submit comments objecting to the proposal. The association also takes exception to the FAA’s use of the VOR’s absence from the list of VORs to be retained for the minimum operational network (MON)—a NextGen back-up system—as one of the criteria for decommissioning the VOR. The list of MON navaids has not yet been publicly vetted.

The FAA said the proposal also arose from "signal interference" from a power-line project under construction in the area of the VOR. But such problems constituted a "preventable" set of circumstances, said Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of airspace and modernization.

"The FAA has not made any attempt to mitigate the impacts of the loss of this VOR. The agency is simply eliminating the airways that used the VOR," he said. "All of this was preventable. The FAA should use protections already in place to restrict the construction of obstructions that interfere with the usability of National Airspace infrastructure including VORs."

AOPA will also renew its call for the FAA to convene an industry stakeholder committee to help create policy for airway modifications during the transition to a satellite-base air traffic system. The association has emphasized the need for a system-wide strategy to leverage the efficiencies of new navigation technology. AOPA believes that in many airspace modification cases put forward by the FAA, the redesigns have replaced, but not improved on existing capabilities.

"It is important to let the FAA know it needs to solicit and review public comment before undertaking a significant policy action that will affect general aviation," Kramer said.

Members may submit comments by March 31 online or by mail to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, M-30, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001. Please identify FAA Docket No. FAA-2013-0960 and Airspace Docket No. 13-AGL-17 at the beginning of your comments.