AOPA has submitted formal comments opposing an FAA plan to establish Class C airspace at California’s Long Beach/Daugherty Field, expressing strong disappointment at the FAA’s failure to address more than a thousand pilots who called on the agency to provide data justifying the airspace change and to complete a broad review of the entire southern California airspace area.
Members are urged to take advantage of the opportunity to make a statement about the plan’s impact on general aviation before the end of the public comment period Dec. 12.
“The overarching message is that the FAA’s latest plan is worse than the last because of the added complexity of variable-height ceilings, said Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of airspace and modernization. The FAA made a previous attempt to impose more restrictive airspace at Long Beach in 1991, but withdrew the plan and called for a region-wide airspace review because the area’s airspace was already too complex.
In October 2011, AOPA participated in informal airspace meetings on the new airspace modification and continues to maintain that the FAA failed to demonstrate the existence of safety risks that would necessitate changing the airspace from Class D.
Imposing Class C airspace at Long Beach—with a complicated configuration that employs variable ceiling heights—would have significant negative effects on GA operations in the area, AOPA said in formal comments submitted Dec. 7. The association urged the FAA to take its own long-standing advice and consider changes at Long Beach in the broader context of reviewing airspace needs of the entire Los Angeles Basin.
“Rather than address issues in isolation, AOPA requests that the FAA take a comprehensive approach to the entire Los Angeles area,” wrote Kramer in AOPA’s comment. “The airspace over Los Angeles is so complex that a solution cannot be successful without taking the surrounding airspace into account. Despite the FAA’s 1991 recommendation that the (Long Beach) airspace should not be reclassified without a much broader review of the Los Angeles airspace area, a comprehensive review has never been conducted and the FAA has failed to follow its own guidance in a very complex terminal airspace that would benefit from a comprehensive review.”
Furthermore, the FAA failed to consider expanded Class D airspace as a solution before proposing the Class C airspace plan, he said. Expanded Class D airspace would accomplish the FAA’s stated goal of establishing more two-way radio contact between air traffic control and pilots flying in the area, and would be consistent with the policy goal of applying the least-restrictive airspace solution possible to the task of managing the area’s flight operations.
As AOPA has stressed in the past and again recently with the tragic events of the crash into the Superstition Mountains to the east of Phoenix, Ariz., any airspace changes must take into account all users of the system and make the airspace less complex for operators—not more complex. The concerns about safety and complexity that AOPA raised during the Phoenix Class B airspace changes have been acknowledged as a possible subject for review by the National Transportation Safety Board in connection with the recent fatal accident.
The Class C airspace plan could “significantly compress and funnel” the area’s general aviation traffic, increasing the risk of collision, Kramer wrote.