Airports and State Advocacy
Two-way radio to be required near Luke AFB
The FAA has issued a final airspace rule requiring two-way radio communication in the vicinity of Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.
All VFR aircraft operating in the vicinity will have to establish communication with the Luke Radar Approach Control prior to entering a Special Air Traffic Rule (SATR) area and maintain communication while operating in the area, effective May 6. The SATR will be active during official daylight hours Monday through Friday while Luke pilot flight training is underway, as broadcast on the local automatic terminal information service (ATIS). When it is active at other times, pilots will be notified by notam and through the ATIS broadcast. The SATR will be charted and will make use of a number of prominent visual landmarks.
According to the FAA and Luke officials, the rule is necessary to address reported near midair collisions in the area and will help reduce the potential for midair collisions in the vicinity. AOPA raised concerns when the Air Force initially proposed special rules for the area in 2006, saying that more data was needed to support a change. The association recommended non-rulemaking alternatives to the SATR that would not unnecessarily complicate the already busy airspace in the region, including an education effort and a note on the ATIS. AOPA, local airports, and the Air Force have initiated voluntary efforts to reduce the risk, but ultimately the FAA determined that additional communication efforts would help mitigate the safety concerns.
“Based on the complexity of the Phoenix Class B airspace and the number of general aviation operations, it will be extremely important that pilots are not denied access to the Luke SATR,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airspace and modernization. “We have been assured that Luke has the staffing resources to ensure this requirement will not burden local and transiting GA pilots, and we will continue to monitor to ensure that is the case.”
The initial proposal would have required a clearance to enter the airspace, but based on input from local pilots and AOPA, pilots are not required to obtain clearance under the final rule. Pilots with no radio can call Luke by telephone to request transition. AOPA is still concerned, however, that because VFR pilots tend to avoid controlled airspace, the SATR could push more VFR pilots closer to sailplane operations from Pleasant Valley and make that area more congested.
January 7, 2010