Jan. 9, 2004 - As a direct result of pressure from AOPA, the FAA has lowered the altitude of a moored balloon experiment and raised the safety level for pilots operating in the Lancaster, Pa., area.
AOPA sent a scathing letter to the FAA just before New Years over a Millersville University experiment that involved a moored balloon at 3,600' MSL, above the minimum obstacle clearance altitude (MOCA) for several Victor airways in that area. Notice of the experiment was published only 10 days before the experiment was set to begin, and the public comment period didn't end until after the experiment was scheduled to be complete.
A new notam issued Thursday lowers the balloon's permitted altitude to 2,600' MSL, and raises the MOCA and minimum en route altitudes (MEAs) for those airways to 3,700' MSL.
"Even though we asked that this study be halted immediately, we believe the safety issues have been adequately addressed," said Heidi Williams, AOPA manager of air traffic. "But we hope that in the future, the FAA will pay closer attention to these kinds of safety details, and will do a better job of notifying pilots and allowing for public comment."