Contrary to the Air Force’s finding that making Alaska’s Delta MOA permanent would have “no significant impact,” the plan would sever critical IFR routes, expose VFR traffic to new collision hazards, and isolate a region that is dependent on aviation for goods and services, AOPA said in formal comments filed Jan. 20.
In its comments AOPA countered the Air Force claim that the MOA, which has been in use on a temporary basis intermittently for the past three years, would not have a significant impact. AOPA noted that the impact of the MOA has been understated and asked for a more complete analysis of potential impacts in the form of an environmental impact statement.
AOPA also proposed an alternative that would allow the military to conduct training without shutting down IFR access to a V-444, a major east-west route across the state. Without access to V-444, pilots would need to make a detour of nearly 400 miles using an airway with a minimum en route altitude that is 5,000 feet higher—a significant difference for most general aviation aircraft, and especially troublesome in Alaska.
AOPA’s recommendation included dividing the MOA into high- and low-altitude sections, allowing the lower altitude airspace to remain open for civilian access when military training is taking place at higher altitudes. AOPA also recommended using additional surveillance and communication tools to ensure real-time coordination of airspace activities to minimize the impact on civil aviation.
“This region includes small communities that are completely dependent on aviation to deliver goods, services, and medical care,” explained Pete Lehmann, AOPA manager of air traffic services. “It is unreasonable to believe that shutting down access to such a large swathe of airspace and forcing aircraft to travel hundreds of miles out of the way would not have major economic, social, and safety implications.”