AOPA will oppose a Marine Corps proposal to establish two military operations areas (MOAs) near Cherry Point over North Carolina's Outer Banks.
"This is the same proposal the military has been advancing for seven years, and our objections remain the same," said Heidi Williams, AOPA manager of air traffic policy. "The MOAs would effectively force general aviation traffic into airspace the military considers unsafe for its own aircraft."
The FAA has formally notified airspace users of the Marine Corps request to create the Core and Gunny (previously called Matamuskeet) MOAs along and just inland from the Outer Banks, from 3,000 to 17,999 feet agl. The public has until August 18 to comment on the proposal.
Because the Marines anticipate using the MOAs most of the time, most GA pilots will chose to fly below 3,000 feet to stay underneath the airspace to avoid an encounter with a high-speed military fighter. But according to data from the Air Force Aviation Safety Division, that's also the most likely place for a bird strike.
Both MOAs overlie areas where waterfowl abound, including several national wildlife areas.
The Core MOA also overlies the Cape Lookout National Seashore. According to the Aeronautical Information Manual and aviation charts, pilots are "requested to maintain at least 2,000 feet above the surface" of national parks, monuments, seashores, and wildlife areas.
"That effectively compresses all VFR traffic in the area into a 1,000-foot section of altitude, creating congestion and leaving very little room to see and avoid other aircraft," said Williams.
In formal comments filed previously on the proposal, AOPA concluded, "When you combine the effects of proposed and existing SUA [special-use airspace], increased military flight operations, and limitations in radar coverage that preclude real-time airspace management throughout the region, it becomes clear that the proposed action alternatives are not in the best interest of general aviation pilots. As a result, AOPA strongly asserts that the 'no action' alternative serves the best interest of airspace users in North Carolina."
"The number of birds and the number of fighters hasn't decreased since then," said Williams. "Area pilots shouldn't have to chose between a potential midair collision with a duck or an F-18 Hornet."
Comments on airspace and aviation issues should be sent to:
Federal Aviation Administration
Air Traffic Division
Manager, Operations Branch (ASO-530.8)
P.O. Box 20636
Atlanta, GA 30320
Environmental comments should be addressed to:
Environmental Affairs MCAS
PSC Box 8006
Cherry Point, NC 28533-8006
July 29, 2004