AOPA continues to advocate for pilots’ access to airspace on what has become a multi-year effort by the California Department of Parks and Recreation to regulate airspace over its state wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and national preserves. The association has repeatedly reminded state officials that the FAA has the sole authority to regulate airspace.
The state’s latest proposal has been amended to remove banning flights below 500 feet agl over cultural and natural preserves but retains the restriction for flight below 2,000 feet agl over wilderness areas.
In formal comments filed Nov. 26, AOPA stated that the latest proposal “is still in conflict with the FAA’s sole authority to regulate the National Airspace System.” This is the third draft of the proposed state regulation, with earlier proposals being advanced in 2013 and earlier in 2014.
“In the National Parks Air Tour Management Act, Congress recognized the FAA has sole authority to control airspace over the United States,” AOPA said. “The Act also recognizes the FAA has authority to preserve and protect the environment by preventing the adverse effects of aircraft overflights.”
AOPA expressed concern that if the California Department of Parks and Recreation created such a regulation pilots could be flying over California complying with the federal aviation regulations but not the state’s regulations.
“Allowing multiple agencies to control national airspace would create a patchwork quilt of overlapping and potentially contradictory regulations from Federal, State, and local municipalities, ultimately creating insurmountable barriers for pilots,” AOPA said.
Additionally, AOPA pointed out that pilots voluntarily fly friendly over noise-sensitive areas like wildlife refuges and nature preserves.