Office of the Chief Counsel
Attention Rules Docket
Airspace Docket No. 98-AWA-1
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
RE: Proposed Revision of the Legal Description of the Memphis Class B Airspace Area, Tennessee
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) strongly objects to the proposed revision of the legal description of the Memphis Class B airspace area, Tennessee. This notice disguises a serious breach of the public trust in that it pertains to a federal action that had already been completed prior to the rulemaking proposal. Furthermore, the notice erroneously states that the proposed actions will not change operating requirements. Finally, the notice was published with an extremely short comment period of only 30 days.
The current Memphis Class B airspace configuration is predicated on the current vortac location. General aviation pilots use this vortac to navigate around the Class B Airspace using VOR/DME. Because of new hangar construction, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was asked to relocate the vortac to a location 2.58 nm south of the existing location. This move should have required an adjustment to the existing Class B airspace to assure that pilots could continue to safely use their VOR/DME equipment to remain clear of the Class B airspace. However, the FAA agreed to move the location of the vortac but leave the airspace in its current configuration. This means that the airspace will now be predicated on an imaginary point in space, where the old vortac was located. This situation leaves many general aviation pilots without any way to navigate around the Class B Airspace using ground-based navigational equipment.
This action is a breach of the public trust because prior to notifying the public of this proposed rulemaking, the FAA had acquired a new vortac, placed it in its new location, adjusted the appropriate airways and instrument approaches, and had flight-checked said airways and approaches. The FAA plans on switching on the new vortac on August 13, 1998.
This action changes the operational requirements for aircraft navigating in and around the airspace. Practically speaking, to determine aircraft location, pilots will no longer be able to navigate without RNAV capability. Under the misleading title of a “Revision to the Legal Description” of the Memphis Class B Airspace Area, the FAA proposes to eliminate an important navigation tool for the VFR pilot attempting to navigate around the airspace using VOR/DME.
The 30-day comment period is not adequate. AOPA has commented, on numerous occasions, that a single notification in the Federal Register with a short comment period is not adequate for notifying the user public of a proposal. Few, if any, general aviation pilots have access to the Federal Register. Our members rely on AOPA and the aviation trade publications for dissemination of information, and 30 days is not nearly enough lead time for AOPA and others to get the word out. At the very minimum, the FAA should publish a 90-day comment period and look at alternative methods for notifying the flying public.
There are a limited number of other Class B airspace areas that do not have the airspace predicated on the location of the vortac. While AOPA does not consider this to be an ideal situation in those areas, other mitigations are in place to alleviate the navigation problems. These mitigations include, but are not limited to, numerous geographical landmarks to assist with VFR navigation, radials and distances from the vortac, or latitude and longitude, or both to depict areas of the Class B that are not identified by landmarks. Furthermore, in these locations, the FAA has used local user group committees to assist with the determination of the points to be depicted that would most benefit VFR navigation.
On other airspace actions, the FAA has had a policy of working closely with the local user groups prior to a regulatory proposal. However, in the case of the removal of the vortac at Memphis, this has not happened.
Because this action has been conducted without meaningful public input, and for the reasons stated above, AOPA wants the FAA to do the following:
We look forward to your positive response.
Melissa K. Bailey
Airspace and System Standards
July 24, 1998