The FAA has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modify the Class B airspace in Atlanta. The agency maintains that reducing the diameter of the outer ring while lowering many interior shelves will save airline fuel, and enhance the efficiency of the world’s busiest airspace.
The agency’s goal is to contain traffic arriving and departing Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport within the Class B boundaries. With the current design, aircraft often exit and re-enter the Class B airspace during arrival or departure, a practice discouraged by FAA air traffic control procedures. The proposed airspace modifications would actually reduce the horizontal diameter of the Class B airspace to 30 nautical miles or less, while lowering the floor of the Class B “shelf” in several areas. The FAA maintains that the changes will not change the current operation altitudes, or the volume, of airline traffic, and that VFR and IFR access to satellite airports would be maintained.
AOPA had voiced several concerns about the redesign during the informal airspace meetings: With the reduction in Class B shelves, VFR traffic operating outside of the airspace would be compressed. Departures from DeKalb-Peachtree could be negatively impacted, particularly under IFR, if aircraft are forced to fly below the Class B shelf for extended distances. Members reported to AOPA that access to Class B airspace is already difficult or impossible in the area above Dekalb-Peachtree. The FAA responded to concerns about impacts on IFR traffic that proposed changes to the Class B airspace would not change IFR operations beyond reducing or eliminating the need for IFR traffic to transition in and out of the Class B airspace. As for potential delays, “no additional IFR aircraft would be introduced into the airspace over these airports, so the traffic that flows through the affected airspace is already there,” the FAA wrote in the Feb. 3 notice.
AOPA also wrote about the need to preserve IFR and VFR access by maintaining existing VFR flyways and implementing T-routes to aid in Class B transitions.
AOPA is carefully reviewing the FAA proposal and will submit comments on the proposed modification to address operational concerns while maintaining safe and efficient general aviation access to the area.