The Navy’s plan to expand a sprawling block of airspace near a Marine Corps installation in Twentynine Palms, Calif., poses problems for general aviation that should be mitigated before the proposal moves forward, AOPA said.
Since the Navy Department has released its final environmental impact statement that evaluates the environmental impacts associated with expanding the special-use airspace near the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, AOPA has continued to press for design features that would mitigate serious operational problems facing general aviation. The association continues to voice those concerns with both the Navy and the FAA, pointing out that if the Navy grants concessions now, it could expedite the next step in the process—a formal rulemaking proposing to change the airspace. During that phase, airspace users and the public would have another opportunity to share input with the FAA on the impacts of the proposed changes.
“While the final EIS shows slight improvements, there is still room for mitigation that would lessen the effects on general aviation,” said Melissa McCaffrey, AOPA senior government analyst for air traffic.
A formal notice of proposed rulemaking by the FAA would include soliciting comments from the public. That would provide AOPA members with an opportunity to weigh in on the large-scale proposal’s impact on their flight operations, and have their comments addressed in the final rule, McCaffrey said.
AOPA has told the Navy that the airspace could be shared more efficiently through a design that provides bypass routes for general aviation in some areas, and more realistically takes the limited special-use airspace activation schedules into account by establishing temporary, rather than permanent, military operations areas (MOAs).
For example, the EIS includes modification of the Cax military operations area into high and low sectors, but the revision does not raise the MOA’s floor, as AOPA requested, to allow traffic to bypass restricted area R-2501. Also, the low sector would only be active for nine days a year, making it more suited as a temporary MOA than as special-use airspace activated by notices to airmen, she said.
Proposed changes to the Turtle MOA that would divide it into three sectors, in some cases with limited use, also would justify temporary MOA status for the airspace, she said.
AOPA encourages members to become familiar with the final EIS, to participate in any future rulemaking process, and to watch for alerts from AOPA about public comment periods as the process proceeds. “The size and location of the airspace being considered for expansion could have great impact on Southern California pilots, so it remains important that our members share their input throughout this process,” said McCaffrey.
AOPA will continue to work with other stakeholders to win design concessions aimed at more efficient sharing of the airspace from the Navy Department.