Pilots, Residents Protest Long Beach Airport Plan
FAA Wants To Expand Class C Airspace, Change Traffic Patterns
It’s not often that GA pilots and residents living near airports or in flight corridors find themselves on the same side of an argument, but that’s just what seems to be happening with the FAA’s plan to nearly triple the size of the Class C airspace around Long Beach Airport.
Expanding the Class C airspace would bring a large portion of the so-called South Bay area under positive control, requiring pilots to work with San Diego center. Pilots say the action will push such activities as flight training to uncontrolled airspace over residential neighborhoods of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a move sure to be protested by the people living in those neighborhoods.
The FAA says the Class C expansion will reduce the risk of collision between GA aircraft and Long Beach jet traffic. But critics predict that the move will simply cause student pilots to avoid the Class C airspace all together, pushing them into a narrow corridor between KLAX and San Pedro. They also say the new Class C would overlap flight training areas over Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors, making them “useless.”
The Daily Breeze reports that the FAA says the move was triggered by an increase in near-collision alerts in the Long Beach area, though one aviation consultant who worked for the FAA for three decades said there is no empirical data to back up that claim. Long Beach Airport is limited to 41 commercial flights per day. FAA Lynn Lunsford said that the commercial flights must climb through airspace that is “congested” with GA airplanes operating VFR. “Smaller aircraft, VFR aircraft not talking to air traffic controllers, they tend to sort of gravitate toward this … airspace because they don’t have to talk to controllers,” she said. “We have to provide separation. The goal is to reduce jets’ exposure to untracked VFR traffic.”
Flight instructors say they have enough to do while working with a student without having to worry about staying in touch with ATC. They also say the move restricts options for emergency landings in an area that will see a marked increase in inexperienced pilots. One instructor said a par 5 hole at Trump National Golf Course would be the best option for a emergency landing. Residents now living in the affluent neighborhoods under what would be the remaining uncontrolled airspace say they don’t want the increase in air traffic and noise that the change is likely to bring.
The California Pilots Association and AOPA have both weighed in as well, saying they oppose the FAA’s “piecemeal” approach to the Los Angeles area’s complex airspace, and that the agency should look for an overall solution to how the airspace is allocated.
To read the Daily Breeze local version of the story which has a very clear graphic of the proposed airspace change click here.