The FAA has added three key AOPA "waypoints" to its "Flight Plan 2005-2009," but the document still doesn't cover all of the points important to general aviation pilots. The FAA's Flight Plan is a report card and a strategic planning document.
"The 'Flight Plan' now recognizes that the notice to airmen system has got to be streamlined, modernized, and improved," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And it renews the agency's commitment to general aviation airports by retaining an AOPA-endorsed goal of using Airport Improvement Program funds to upgrade reliever and secondary airports near major cities."
The FAA also recognized the importance of working with the aviation industry to improve general aviation safety, pledging to coordinate GA safety policy through the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (chaired by AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg).
But the FAA did not add a specific goal of improving VFR access to the busy airspace around large metropolitan areas, and it was distressingly vague on a commitment to improve access to GA airports by publishing new Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) instrument approaches. And the agency said nothing about providing the additional ground infrastructure (approach lighting, precision runway markings, etc.) necessary to get the lowest possible WAAS approach minimums.
AOPA commented on the draft Flight Plan last month, pushing for additions important to the 550,000 general aviation pilots who make up the largest group of direct FAA "customers."
The FAA, which is striving to become a "performance-based" organization, says it will provide the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world by "being responsive to our customers."
"We think that being responsive to the customers includes retaking control of the airspace," said Boyer, "so we are disappointed that the agency did not include a strategy for mitigating the effects of security-related airspace restrictions on general aviation, as we had asked."
The FAA still has a way to go toward integrating general aviation into its efforts to improve airspace capacity, according to AOPA.
"Reliever and general aviation airports, new GPS-WAAS instrument approaches with the necessary ground-side improvements, and enhanced GA access through terminal airspace should all be part of the capacity equation," said Boyer. "Improve the 'throughput' and options for general aviation, and you'll create additional capacity for all airspace users."
November 17, 2004