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Safety updates needed when tower opens in Destin, FloridaSafety updates needed when tower opens in Destin, Florida

Safety updates needed when tower opens in Destin, Florida

AOPA is urging the FAA to update an online safety course and amend information in official flight publications about operating in Florida’s Eglin/Valparaiso Special Air Traffic Rule Area to reflect changes that will go into effect when nearby Destin Executive Airport’s new control tower opens.

The FAA advised users in a March 3 notice in the Federal Register that it proposes to establish Class D airspace at Destin to support the control tower, on which construction began last fall, and make related changes to airspace in the special air traffic rule area. Destin’s airport sits in a congested complex of airspace south of Eglin Air Force Base, and east of Hurlburt Field in Mary Esther in Florida’s panhandle. A Part 93 special air traffic rule requires pilots to obtain an air traffic control clearance or advisory before operating in the Eglin/Valparaiso terminal area.

Pilots may submit comments on the airspace changes in the proposal and the need to update safety information until April 18, as provided below.

“AOPA has communicated to the FAA the need to update the SFAR Part 93 FAA Safety course ALC-47: Destin/Eglin AFB FL Part 93 Operations to ensure that pilots are given the best information on how to fly through that congested area,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic.

In comments submitted March 11, AOPA pointed out that “pilots will likely be confused on whom to contact when the Destin air traffic control tower is closed unless the outdated language is removed and new remarks provided” in Destin’s Airport/Facilities Directory listing. “It is unusual for a tower to close and the airspace remain Class D with the pilots required to contact an adjoining air traffic control tower,” Duke wrote.

The sharing of notams affecting the airports in the terminal area, which lets pilots see notams for both Destin and Eglin Air Force Base when checking notams for either airport also should be continued, he said.

“AOPA believes as part of this rulemaking action that the FAA must consider the intricacies of the airspace and ensure that the airspace requirements are effectively communicated to the pilot community,” Duke said.

Pilots are encouraged to review the proposal and submit comments by April 18 by email or by mail to U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Bldg. Ground Floor, Rm. W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001. Be sure to identify Docket No. FAA-2015-7203 and Airspace Docket No. 15-ASO-14 at the beginning of your comments. Please also share your comments with AOPA.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Airspace, Advocacy

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