FAA Proposes Heightened Flight Controls Over Long Beach Airport; Pilots Say It’s Not Needed
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking public comment on whether to enforce stricter air traffic controls at Long Beach Airport after a reported increase in mid-air collision warnings.
The FAA hopes to increase the safety margin for all aircraft operating in and out of the airport’s current airspace, which extends from the surface to 2,600 feet above ground within a 4.3 mile radius, by switching to Class C, which would almost double the controlled area.
Ian Gregor, spokesperson for FAA, said the airport remains generally safe but the federal agency consistently evaluates procedures at different airports around the country to increase safety.
The proposed controls would include additional communications with air traffic control towers so that airlines flying in and out of other nearby airports with tighter restrictions avoid paths with crossing private planes.
The new controls would increase Long Beach’s airspace in which pilots would be required to communicate with ground controls in landings and take offs. During the public comment meetings held last month, many private pilots and members of the general aviation community balked at the idea.
“Private pilots tend to oppose any attempt to increase the size of controlled airspace, anywhere in the country,” he said. “We think that it will have minimal impact on pilots. It wouldn’t take away anything they have now, it just would require them to be in communication with air traffic controllers in places where they don’t currently have to be communicating.” (Editor’s Note: Maybe Mr. Gregor should dig out his chart on the LA area and take another look at the incredible complexity that already exits in the area).
Furthermore, he said the proposal has been in the works for years and is unrelated to the airport’s new modernization plans. The decision would be made strictly by the FAA and has nothing to do with airport staff, he added.
However, two new airline carriers have arrived at the airport recently, and one of the main reasons for bringing the proposal to the table was because airlines have reported increases in signals from collision warning systems, or TCAS devices. When the systems detect a conflict, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s going to be a conflict, but the measure is in place merely to increase the safety buffer.
Gregor said out of the 89 airports serving more than a million passengers a year surveyed in the United States, Long Beach Airport is the only one without Class C airspace.
Southern California is known for having one of the most congested airspaces in the country with dozens of airports in the immediate area, some with more restrictions and others with no control towers at all.
Candy Robinson, owner of Long Beach Flying Club and Flight Academy, said the Long Beach Airport has predominantly been a general aviation airport with a majority of flights from private pilots. The airport averages close to 1,000 operations per day, she said, of which only 41 slots are designated for commercial airlines. Class C airspace is mainly used by airline heavy airports such as Los Angeles and Ontario International Airports, she said.
Implementing Class C would only make the area more congested Robinson said, squeezing flight paths in the already highly complex myriad of routes.
“There’s no room for it,” she said. “It works fine now and to put a Class Charlie in here for what it’s like today it doesn’t make sense.”
The controversial move is the second time the government agency has tried to establish Class C after an attempt in 1991 was cancelled due to the switch “not being compatible” with the matrix of flight paths, according to an FAA document.
The FAA wrote that the Class C proposal was originally withdrawn with future plans made to redesign the system of the entire region due to the complexity of the airspace and accompanying conditions.
“The amount and complexity of this airspace dictate a need to modify the entire Los Angeles Basin airspace to make it more compatible with the increasing amount of general aviation and air carrier activity,” the document states. “. . . Future rulemaking is planned for a comprehensive redesign of the airspace.”
However, Gregor notes that alternatives were looked at this time with the Southern California Airspace Users Working Group, but they still didn’t address the issue.
“We tried to brainstorm also some solutions that wouldn’t require an airspace change, but we determined that those alternatives didn’t address the issue, so we’re proposing here to go forward with an airspace change.
After taking public comments on the proposal, if approved, the new flight controls would be implemented in a little more than a year.