Around the Airport

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Are Your Groups Really Fighting For You? Part 3

In part 2 of, "Are Your Groups Really Fighting For You," I pointed out how AOPA's conflict of interest has them pushing ADS-B units rather than fighting back against the FAA.  At the end of that, I also said I was going to tell you what AOPA would be doing if they really were on your side.  Here it is.

East of the Rockies we have many unnecessary burdens wearing on grass roots aviation. Four that come to mind are the Class B airspaces surrounding St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh airports.  Add ADS-B to the mix and these wedding cakes from hell will become dams to the free flow of aviation traffic.  If I were running AOPA, the organization would be fighting to remove them.
These giant obstacles to aviation are outdated, unnecessary, and the time has come to put them to bed.  Containing approximately 2800 square miles of airspace which will be off limits to aircraft without ADS-B, these areas, once friendly to general aviation, serve no purpose but to discourage it.
Why are they there?  During the good times of the dot com explosion in the 90s and derivative driven home equity spending in the 2000s, everything, including aviation traffic, exploded.  The FAA, always in search of an opportunity to grab airspace, did a few quick counts, generated some wild predictions of continued growth, sprinkled in a little fear of 9/11, and claimed them as Class B.  A few short years later, it all came crashing down.

Today these airports are relative ghost-towns; urban blight aviation style.  They don’t even come close to meeting the criteria for Class B and almost surely never will again.  The demographics have changed, as have the structure of the airlines which served them.  Their glory days are behind, yet the damage their Class Bs incur on general aviation remain.  It’s time to change that.
Cincinnati Class B.   It restricts the flow of GA traffic in and out of
many airports. Without the Class B, the pink area would be
open to all small GA planes. That is roughly 2800 square miles.
Figure in the 3rd dimension of altitude and you get close to
3500 cubic milesof airspace that is restricted to General Aviation.
And this is just one unnecessary Class B.

Let's start the ball rolling with a short discussion on the criteria for Class B? I have included the FAA's guidelines below. They are taken directly from an FAA publication.
15-2-1. CRITERIA
a. The criteria for considering a given airport as a candidate for a Class B airspace designation must be based on factors that include the volume of aircraft, the number of enplaned passengers, and the type/nature of operations being conducted in the area.
b. For a site to be considered as a new Class B airspace candidate, the following criteria must be met:
1. The primary airport serves at least 5 million passengers enplaned annually;
2. The primary airport has a total airport operations count of 300,000 (of which at least 240,000 are air carriers and air taxi); and
Operation counts are available from the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans, Statistics and Forecast Branch, APO-110. Enplaned passenger counts may be obtained by contacting the Office of Airport Planning and Programming Division, APP-1. Current validated counts are normally available in mid-October of the current year for the previous year.
3. The Class B designation will contribute to the efficiency and safety of operations, and is necessary to correct a current situation or problem that can not be solved without a Class B designation.
The above is the minimum criteria. It should be noted that when the criteria for the establishment of a Class B airspace area is met, it is merely an indication that the facility is a candidate for further study.
c. Although an airport meets the minimum passenger and air traffic operations criteria for a Class B designation, other factors must be considered, such as: would a Class B designation contribute to the efficiency and safety of operations in the area: and is there a current situation or problem that cannot be solved without the designation of Class B airspace.
Did you expect them to be more complicated?  I know I did.  After reading them though, I was please they boiled down to two important items.  First, an airport must have at least a total of 300,000 annual operations, with a minimum of them being 240,000 air carrier or taxi operations. Next, even if an airspace meets the criteria, those data points only determine if an airspace needs more study.  It does not mean, even at those levels, a Class B is needed or required.  

The pink area is all the area a plane without ADS-B will have to avoid.  Yet, CVG
doesn't even meat the criteria for Class B airspace.
So where do we sit with the four airports I mentioned earlier?  They don't even come close to meeting the criteria for Class B airspace?  Furthermore, their previous traffic counts show no sign of returning?  But, have you heard so much as a peep from any of our groups about removing them?  I think it's time we do.

Thanks to Ed Roo for finding this graphic and helping me locate links
to FAA sites which allowed me to verify what I suspected.  This
graphic shows BNA (Nashville) which the FEDS attempted to take
in the 90s.  It also is missing the numbers for Detroit but I think you
get the picture.  There exists a handful of Class Bs, and quite possibly more,
which need to be removed.  Why are our groups not addressing them?

If you would like to look up your airport to see if it meets the minimum criteria for Class B airspace, go to this link (click here).  I would not be surprised to learn there are more.  Let me know if you find any others.

Before I close this out, I would like to discuss a few final points.  It's important to remember that the majority of America's population resides withing 30 miles of large cities.  This means the majority of airports lie within the same area.  Therefore, every Class B that exists does a disproportionate amount of damage to aviation.  They cannot be seen merely as umbrellas for commercial aviation.  They must be viewed for what they are, a blight on aviation, both the sport and industry.

Finally, I would like to leave you with this question.  How many Class Bs, Cs and Ds are there out there which do not meet their minimum criteria and how many others just barely meet the numbers but don't warrant them?  I would bet you it is at least 30% of the total.

And don't forget, all that airspace is, or easily could be, subject to ADS-B in the future. Yet, these spaces almost always contain the airports of grass roots aviation.   Therefore, addressing them should be a priority for aviation alphabet groups.  But then again, their cronies (every group has them) wouldn't like that would they?

Follow this link (click here) to research the rules of B, C, and D airspace.  Then go to this link (click here) to check traffic counts.  Let me know what you find.  If nothing else, it will be educational.

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