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AOPA opposes Alaska restricted airspace planAOPA opposes Alaska restricted airspace plan

AOPA believes that a U.S. Army proposal to establish restricted airspace in airspace south and east of Allen Army Airfield in Delta Junction/Fort Greely, Alaska, would “significantly and adversely impact General Aviation,” and has opposed the plan in formal comments.

AOPA graphic depicting FAA proposed restricted area R-2201A, B, and C near Fort Greely, Alaska.

Members are encouraged to review the proposal and submit comments before the April 20 deadline as provided below.

The proposal to establish restricted area R-2201 in a region already packed with special-use airspace has revived oft-debated objections to numerous impacts on flight safety and efficiency in the area, as AOPA most recently reported on March 15.

In comments submitted April 4, AOPA urged new consideration of safety-related objections from AOPA and other aviation organizations that were “dismissed” by the military when “the Record of Decision endorsed the largest expansion of Restricted Area of all the alternatives considered.”

The proposed location of R-2201 immediately south and east of Allen Army Airfield near the Donnelly Dome, would place it along the most desirable GA route to and from the Isabel Pass. The pass, already squeezed by adjacent restricted airspace, connects interior and south-central Alaska, and offers one of the lowest terrain routes through the Alaska Range.

In the pass, “Pilots regularly navigate using the Richardson Highway and Trans Alaska Pipeline as their guide to traverse the mountain valley that has precipitous terrain on either side,” wrote Rune Duke, AOPA director of government affairs for airspace and air traffic.

Safe IFR operations by commercial and GA operators would suffer because those operators rely on single-engine piston aircraft that need the airways to be available as they offer the lowest minimum enroute altitude. If the routes were unavailable because of activity in a restricted area, more operations would have to be conducted under visual flight rules.

“This will adversely impact safety and could lead to a higher accident rate as the benefits of the IFR support structure will not be available,” Duke wrote.

Proximity to the Alaska Range makes the area vulnerable to rapidly changing weather with frequent low ceilings and high winds—elevating risks if GA flights are relegated to “a narrow corridor.”

AOPA reiterated objections to the absence of advance notice planned for the proposed 12-hours-per-weekday use of the airspace, which would be activated by a notice to airmen. “The times of use should be changed to ‘as published by NOTAM issued 4 hours in advance of area activation,’” Duke wrote.

“As AOPA has stated in previous comments regarding this airspace, we cannot support any Restricted Area in this location. There are over 400 square miles of existing restricted airspace in close proximity to this complex. The Army should have considered the serious concerns of the aviation community and developed a plan that would work for both groups versus advancing a proposal with such severe impacts,” he wrote.

Members may submit comments on R-2201 until April 20 online or by mail to U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001. Please identify FAA Docket No. FAA-2016-9495 and Airspace Docket No. 15-AAL-6 at the beginning of your comments.

Please 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 a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airport Advocacy, Special Use Airspace

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