AOPA has voiced a mixed opinion about the FAA's proposal to modify Orlando International's Class B airspace and change Orlando Sanford International's Class D airspace to Class C.
While AOPA supports the proposal to create additional flyway airspace for aircraft transiting the area under the floor of the Class B airspace, the association opposes changing Sanford's airspace because it would increase costs and create inefficiencies for general aviation pilots without addressing the concerns that motivated the proposed change. Additionally, AOPA's analysis of the FAA's air traffic data for Sanford revealed that the number of operations falls below the threshold for establishment of Class C airspace.
"It is clear that the FAA did not adequately consult with users during the development of these proposed changes because so many Florida pilots oppose the changes to Sanford's airspace," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. "The FAA failed to follow ad hoc user group procedures - procedures that it had worked with AOPA to create."
The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) states that runway incursions are occurring at Sanford because of delays, frequency congestion, and the diversion of air traffic controller's attention because of the amount of traffic.
"AOPA recognizes the need to reduce runway incursions," Williams said. "However, Sanford has an impeccable safety record, and the controller workload concerns can be addressed without changing the airspace."
Sanford had only three incursions in 1999, two in 2000, none from 2001 to 2002, and four from 2002 to 2003. All of the incursions fell into the lowest classification, Category D, meaning that there was little to no chance of collision. And from 2002 to 2003, three of the four incursions were caused by pilot error. (Learn more about runway incursion classifications in the AOPA Online Safety Center.)
In formal comments, AOPA said the FAA could adjust Sanford tower staffing to facilitate improved air traffic and runway safety and offload the sequencing of Sanford arrivals to Orlando International's approach/departure controllers. This could be done by a letter of agreement without requiring an airspace change.
AOPA pointed out that even though the number of enplanements qualify the airport for Class C designation, the number of operations at the airport is decreasing.
According to the FAA's own air traffic data, operations at Sanford already fall below the threshold for a Class C facility, and its operations continue to decline, indications that Class C airspace is unwarranted.
Florida pilots had contacted AOPA, saying that they were not notified of public meetings to discuss the FAA's proposal. A distribution snag prevented many of the FAA's notices from making it to pilots in time for the meetings.
October 13, 2005