A series of proposed updates to the FAA’s airspace protection regulations, as defined under Part 77 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, has mostly met with approval from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association… but that’s not to say AOPA doesn’t have some additional suggestions to protect smaller general aviation airports. “AOPA generally supports the changes the FAA has proposed, but there are some things that might have a negative affect on GA airports,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. “We’re asking for additional analysis before the rule changes become final.” Of most concern, according to AOPA, is a proposal to expand the “imaginary primary surface” at many GA airports with nonprecision instrument approaches. The problem with that plan — which, essentially, limits obstructions in a protected area surrounding the runway — is that it would decrease the amount of land available for taxiways, aprons, and hangars.
AOPA also says the obstruction limits could also prevent smaller airports from making any such improvements — because they wouldn’t have enough space under the proposed rules. Existing structures could also be affected — because facilities that were once an acceptable distances away from the runway, might now be labeled “obstructions” under the new rules.
AOPA called for the FAA to conduct additional analysis before implementing the rule changes.
“Simply put, smaller GA airports cannot comply financially with the same standards applicable at larger hub airports,” said the pilot advocacy group.
AOPA also recommends the FAA reduce its obstruction standard from 499 feet to 400 feet above the surface. AOPA says would allow for safer operations for airspace users flying at the 500-foot minimum safe altitude in uncongested areas.
Other proposals made for Part 77 met with AOPA’s approval — such as a measure codifying the electromagnetic interference obstruction standards to better protect aviation communication and navigation radio transmissions.
The proposal to add obstruction protection for private-use airports with approved instrument approach procedures also met with AOPA’s approval, along with increasing the advance warning period for construction of or alteration to an obstructing structure from 30 to 60 days.