The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is continuing to oppose the FAA's proposed new Class C airspace around the airport on the island of Nantucket south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
"The FAA refuses to consider simpler, less restrictive options," said Melissa K. Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic services. "Almost a year ago, AOPA proposed a solution that would have cost the taxpayer next to nothing and could have been implemented immediately. We were ignored."
The FAA has scheduled two informal airspace meetings August 20-21 to gather input from pilots on the proposal. AOPA encourages local pilots to attend.
Because of the summer seasonal peak in air traffic on the island, the FAA wants the current Nantucket Class D airspace changed to the more restrictive, radar-based Class C operation. The goal is to have all aircraft flying to and from the island under radar control and participating in separation services.
Cape Tracon and Nantucket Tower already provide radar services around Nantucket. Many transient VFR pilots don't use the service simply because they don't know it exists.
"Last September, AOPA asked the FAA to publish the boundaries, altitudes, and radio frequencies for 'Cape Approach' on VFR sectional and WAC charts," said Bailey. "They haven't."
However, the FAA did follow one AOPA recommendation: It formed an airspace user working group to identify and discuss possible solutions. But no local GA pilots or military representatives were invited to participate.
FAA specialists told the group there was "no other alternative" to establishing the more restrictive Class C airspace, and that the group's only role was to design the limits of the new airspace.
"There are reasonable, less restrictive alternatives," said Bailey. "Tell pilots about the existing radar service, and they will use it."
That's exactly the point AOPA made in its comments to the chairman of the ad hoc Nantucket airspace user group. "While we commend Cape Tracon and the Nantucket air traffic control tower for their efforts to educate local pilots on the services available, transient pilots account for the vast majority of the seasonal increase in traffic operations. Without taking every effort to inform and educate transient operators, it is unlikely the percentage of users taking advantage of the available radar services will increase."
AOPA recommended, once again, that Cape Approach boundaries and frequencies be charted. This simple solution would likely meet safety goals. It would also be much less invasive and could be implemented within the next charting cycle, rather than taking more than a year for a formal rulemaking proposal.
"The FAA already missed this summer season by not charting the information last year, and they'll likely miss next summer as well by proceeding with rulemaking to establish a Class C," said Bailey. "If they really want pilots to participate in radar services, it's hard to understand why they won't try the simple, effective solution of telling them about it first."
(The Nantucket airspace meetings are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the Continental Terminal conference room of the Hyannis Airport on August 20, and at Nantucket High School on August 21.)
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest pilot organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.