Jan. 6, 2004 - AOPA this week told the FAA it needs to change plans for a new restricted area in order to protect the ability of pilots to use one of Montana's longest backcountry airstrips. Backcountry airstrips are more than just rustic getaways for sightseers - they are working airstrips often used for fire watch or fire fighting flights, as well as land- and wildlife management efforts.
The proposed restricted area, (R-4601B), within the Hays Military Operations Area (MOA) would overlie and restrict access to the Cow Creek airstrip. At 2,400', Cow Creek is capable of handling larger aircraft than the typical two-seat tandem bush plane. "AOPA recognizes how crucial backcountry airstrips are for accessing remote areas in Montana and other western states," said Heidi Williams, AOPA manager of air traffic. "That's why we've been fighting on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the FAA to make sure they remain available to pilots."
In its formal comments, AOPA suggested two alternatives for mitigating the impact on Cow Creek. The first suggestion is to move the southern boundary of the restricted area 3 nm north. The other option is to create a 3 nm radius cutout to 1,500' AGL, centered on the airstrip.
The association endorsed one of the ideas in the notice of proposed rulemaking. "AOPA supports the implementation of a manned tower equipped with VHF capability to offer pilots operating in the area accurate SUA (Special Use Airspace) information as proposed." In addition, AOPA wants to see the range control tower frequency published on the appropriate sectional chart, so that pilots know who to contact to determine the status of the SUA.
The FAA is accepting comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) through January 16, 2004. The NPRM is docket number is 15411.
In Photo: Cow Creek airstrip