There's a right way and a wrong way to redesign airspace that affects general aviation operations in major metropolitan areas - at least in AOPA's opinion. And the FAA has managed to illustrate both ways in the last week.
Let's consider the right way first. That way involves the users - the pilots, the controllers, the airport managers - whose lives will be affected by whatever changes are made. So in the case of St. Louis, for example, the FAA is going about it the right way.
The agency is going to modify the airspace in conjunction with commissioning a new runway at Lambert-St Louis International Airport (STL), and the agency recognizes that user input is needed. The final rule is expected by April 2006.
"We participated in the airspace ad hoc working group meetings in 2003 and 2004 and felt the entire process was a good example of how that process should work," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "The FAA and the Missouri Department of Transportation solicited user input to develop a design that addresses the needs of a diverse group of users, including general aviation."
The group's recommendations were incorporated in the design, including AOPA's recommendation to keep the current 8,000-foot ceiling, instead of raising it to 10,000 feet.
The FAA has scheduled public meetings for 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on October 19 at Chester City Hall in Chesterfield, Missouri, and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on October 20 at the Holiday Inn-Collinsville in Collinsville, Illinois. For more information, contact Greg Barrett, 314/890-1040.
For another example of the right way to do things, let's pop over to LAX.
The FAA announced changes to the Los Angeles Class B airspace last Thursday that will shrink the airspace to the northwest, south, and southeast but expand it to the east to better protect Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
The change cuts out about 100 square miles from the Class B airspace. AOPA had filed comments in May supporting the change that would benefit general aviation by enhancing safety and improving traffic flow.
The FAA worked with the Southern California Airspace Users Working Group, of which AOPA is a member, to develop the modifications. "This is clearly another example of how airspace modifications should be handled," said Williams. "It shows that the FAA can work with local airspace users to create changes that are positive for everyone." The rule becomes effective December 22.
But then there are the "bad" and the "ugly" sides of the FAA's airspace efforts.
The agency last Monday also released a proposal to create Class C airspace over Florida's Sanford International Airport and modify the Orlando Class B airspace.
And AOPA is not happy about the proposal or the process that produced it. You see, this time the FAA did not get full user input, and the results could be undesirable.
"We're greatly concerned that if this proposal is implemented, it will result in denial of VFR services to many non-corporate GA pilots," said Williams. "And that's because the FAA did not adequately involve the user community, and it ignored AOPA's formal comments."
Or rather, the FAA "misplaced" the comments, suddenly issuing the proposal with no record of AOPA's concerns.
AOPA will once again file formal comments against the proposed Class C for Sanford - and demand that this time the comments are included in the record.
For more on this story, and to file your own comments, see AOPA Online.
August 16, 2005