"Our members need some of these instrument approaches," AOPA has told the FAA. "Don't cancel them yet."
The FAA wants to eliminate some 129 approaches it considers redundant or underused, "But at one airport, that would leave all of the based pilots without any way to make an instrument approach," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.
That's because the FAA's proposal would have left only a GPS approach to Sheldon Municipal Airport in Iowa, but none of the based aircraft are GPS-equipped, members told AOPA.
AOPA went to bat for members at 35 other airports as well, where the approach cancellations would make things worse for pilots.
"Although AOPA strongly supports the FAA's efforts to transition the National Airspace System to satellite-based navigation, and understands the need to eliminate redundant and unnecessary approaches, many of the proposed cancellations would have a significant impact on general aviation operations," Cebula wrote the FAA.
AOPA had asked its members about which approaches they still needed and did its own research as well.
One issue that the FAA seemed not to consider was that its proposal would eliminate some of these airports as IFR alternates. Current FAA policy prohibits pilots from listing an airport as an IFR alternate if it has only GPS instrument approaches, unless the pilot's aircraft is equipped with WAAS (wide area augmentation system).
"With only 3,000 aircraft equipped with WAAS, the remaining 50,000 aircraft equipped with certified non-WAAS GPS would be forced to select other airports that have a non-GPS approach as an alternate," Cebula said. "A change in FAA policy could alleviate this impact on GPS users."
The loss of some approaches also could affect safety.
"GA aircraft owners are extremely cost sensitive and may not be able to invest in new GPS or DME equipment to be able to continue flying instrument approaches at their airports," said Cebula. "This may force some into accepting increased risks by flying in marginal visual conditions."
Finally, AOPA pointed out that members had identified some of the approaches slated for cancellation as needed for training, because there were no other nearby alternatives suitable for giving pilots the experience they need to meet the requirements for an instrument check ride.
July 10, 2006