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Alaska pilots want plan for restricted area overhauled

A restricted area proposed near Clear Air Force Station in Anderson, Alaska, to support a high-intensity radar installation would become a hazardous disruption of aviation along critical routes, AOPA said in a June 18 letter to the Missile Defense Agency.

Graphic courtesy of the Missile Defense Agency.

AOPA registered objections and possible solutions in comments on the agency’s plans to prepare an environmental impact statement on constructing a Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) facility at Clear and expand its existing adjacent special-use airspace.

The agency “must work with aviation stakeholders to modify the Restricted Area to ensure civil aviation can continue transiting the Parks Highway and Nenana River, and continue utilizing Clear Airport, Clear Sky Lodge Airport, and the frontier airstrips,” AOPA said.

The Alaska aviation community’s concern about the proposal was strongly expressed in May in a letter signed by AOPA and six other aviation organizations urging the Missile Defense Agency to follow the National Environmental Policy Act requirements and fully consider public feedback.

“The scoping process allows the proponent and the public to discuss the impact and alternatives of a proposed action prior to development of an Environmental Impact Statement,” they wrote. “We respectfully request the Missile Defense Agency sincerely commit to working with civil aviation in good faith to ensure the adverse impacts of the new LRDR are mitigated.”

The Missile Defense Agency had a series of public meetings on the plan in early June in Anchorage, Anderson, and Fairbanks. AOPA evaluated the proposal in conjunction with the Alaska Airmen Association and provided comments after hearing from numerous members in Alaska, said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic, and aviation security, noting Alaska residents’ unusually high dependence on a functioning aviation system as a basic lifeline.

Flights under both visual and instrument flight rules would be impacted by expansion of the restricted area necessitated by the high-intensity radiation from the radar installation “along the most desirable General Aviation route to and from the Windy Pass. This is a strategically important mountain pass to aviation as it connects interior and southcentral Alaska, and specifically Fairbanks to Anchorage, the two most populous cities in the state,” he wrote.

AOPA added that the adverse impact would be felt as routing and altitude constraints and curtailment of operations at local airports including Clear Airport, and raise the risk of in-flight weather encounters.

AOPA, noting its broad support for national defense, urged consideration of strategies to mitigate the proposal’s impact including adjusting altitudes and lateral limits of the restricted area. AOPA strongly opposed the use of temporary flight restrictions to operate the radar facility in advance of FAA review of the airspace plan.

Comments on the draft environmental impact statement should be addressed to MDA CAFS EIS and sent by July 5 by email or by mail to Clear EIS c/o HDR, Inc., 2525 C Street, Suite 500, Anchorage, AK 99503.

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 a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Airspace

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