The military should test technology to counter unmanned aircraft systems in existing special-use airspace as an alternative to creating two temporary restricted areas in the vicinity of the busy Valparaiso and Destin, Florida, areas, AOPA said in response to a regulatory filing by the FAA.
AOPA supports tests of the defensive systems, but is concerned that uncharted temporary restricted areas in effect from May 11 to 18 south of the Eglin Air Force Base Range Complex, and within the Valparaiso Special Air Traffic Rules Area, would lack visibility to pilots. Members may comment on the proposal until March 27.
According to the proposal, submitted Feb. 23, notices to airmen would be published 24 hours in advance of activation of the temporary restricted areas, with nonparticipating aircraft being rerouted to the north while the areas are active from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
AOPA objects to the plan’s impact—essentially closing the east-west corridor established by the special flight rules area—when the flight restrictions are in effect.
“We believe this testing is vital to the defense of our country as well as to ensuring the protection of our nation’s airports,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic. “However, we believe this testing can be accomplished in existing Restricted Areas, avoiding negatively impacting one of the busiest general aviation VFR corridors in the country.”
AOPA also took exception to the notice of proposed rulemaking stating that “a temporary flight restriction (TFR) of similar size and shape to the proposed temporary restricted areas was exercised in September 2016 with no issues from non-participating air traffic.”
AOPA received feedback from pilots about the “significant impact” the TFRs had on their ability to fly the Florida coast, he said.
Using forms of special activity airspace to support the integration of UAS into the National Airspace System is a “disturbing recent trend” that “should not be allowed to multiply the already extensive special activity airspace,” Duke said, urging “a more holistic approach” to integrating drones into the nation’s airspace along with manned aircraft.
As a transitional solution, TFRs should be preferred over temporary restricted areas, because TFRs can be depicted by third-party vendors and presented to users of electronic flight bags (EFBs).
“As more pilots embrace EFBs, the expectation is that the information being provided to them is complete,” Duke said.
Members may post their comments on the proposal online or send them to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Docket Operations, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590. Please identify FAA Docket No. FAA-2016-9594 and Airspace Docket No. 16-ASO-20 at the beginning of your comments.
Please also share your comments with AOPA.