Effective October 16, 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is suspending the use of the LAX shoreline transition route below 3,000 feet msl pending a safety review. This action is in direct response to concerns expressed by both the air traffic control specialists and pilots who operate within this airspace. The purpose of the aforementioned procedure is to allow a north/south coastal passageway through the L.A. Basin for both VFR and IFR traffic. This, along with the special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) inland route to the east, provides important access to the general aviation (GA) community through the highly congested Los Angeles (LAX) Class B airspace.
Currently, VFR traffic utilizing the shoreline route is assigned an altitude of 2,500, 3,500, or 4,500 feet msl, depending on their direction of flight, destination, traffic, and meteorological conditions. However, two separate incidents in which separation minima was lost between shoreline traffic and westbound departures out of LAX has prompted the FAA to conduct a safety review of their procedures for handling such operations. To address the most pressing of these safety concerns, the FAA intends to restrict the use of the 2,500 (VFR) and 3,000 (IFR) foot routes until a solution can be implemented. This action will allow departures from LAX to be more easily routed underneath shoreline traffic proximate to the airport.
Although both VFR and IFR traffic will continue to have access to the shoreline route above 3,000 feet msl, the loss of this transition area at lower altitudes will create difficulties for aircraft in and around the L.A. Basin. Not only are the lower routes a favorite among sightseers, they also afford greater access to VFR traffic during certain meteorological conditions. Of greater significance is the operational difficulties presented to aircraft forced to descend from, or climb to, higher altitudes from nearby Santa Monica, Hawthorne, and Torrance airports. By requiring transient aircraft to pass at higher altitudes, arrivals and departures into these airports must fly a more aggressive descent profile or maintain a prolonged climb attitude while operating within congested terminal airspace. Not only is this inefficient and burdensome to GA aircraft, it also presents safety issues worthy of consideration.
For more then a decade, AOPA has been fighting to make the complex airspace in and around LAX a more "GA friendly" environment. As a member of the FAA-funded Southern California Airspace Users Working Group (SCAUWG), AOPA has worked to address the concerns of California's thriving aviation community. As far back as 1995, AOPA and other users worked to oppose a FAA notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) calling for the modification of Los Angeles Class B airspace. Most detrimental to GA pilots was the proposed elimination of established VFR corridors. However, thanks to the efforts of SCAUWG and AOPA, the FAA agreed to the restoration of the LAX Shoreline and Hollywood Park VFR corridors in its final rule. In addition, the ceiling of the Class B area was lowered from 12,500 to 10,000 feet msl, further aiding VFR over flights. Finally, the floors of certain sub-areas were raised to provide more room for VFR aircraft to operate below Class B airspace.
However, the increased volume of air traffic in and around LAX has again caused many safety issues to resurface. These concerns were recently punctuated by a near midair involving an airliner and a GA aircraft operating along the shoreline route. Because of our ongoing involvement with issues important to California pilots, AOPA is well aware of the sensitivity our members have to any action that may restrict their access to airspace. As in the past, AOPA is committed to mitigating or eliminating the impact of any regulatory or procedural changes to the GA community.
AOPA recognizes the safety concerns expressed by the FAA. Recent events clearly illustrate the need to modify existing procedures to safeguard all aeronautical activities. AOPA also applauds the administration's efforts to involve all stakeholders in formulating a consensus-based solution that will preserve GA access while addressing the safety concerns of the entire aviation community.
Although the short-term restriction of traffic at lower altitudes is viewed as an operational necessity, it is important to remember that such a procedural change will have a detrimental impact on GA pilots in this region. In light of this, AOPA will work to ensure that any resolution presented will be timely and incorporate a practical 2,500-foot transition route for VFR traffic.
On October 12, 2000, FAA representatives from the Western Pacific Region contacted AOPA headquarters to provide a briefing on planned procedural changes involving the LAX shoreline route. Both a notice to airmen (notam) and letter to airmen will be issued October 16 to provide pilots who use the shoreline route with the latest information impacting their activities.
The FAA has also announced its intention to formulate a working group, with AOPA representation, and immediately commence meetings to discuss options that address the concerns of all stakeholders. The goal is to formulate and implement a consensus-based solution no later than January 16, 2001.
October 16, 2000