You should subscribe to the Federal Register.
If someone in the greater Salem, Ore.-area had been subscribed to the Federal Register, they might have seen a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled, “Proposed Amendment of Class D and Class E Airspace, Revocation of Class E Airspace; Salem, OR” scroll across their email inbox on May 1, 2015, or thereabouts.
Upon investigating the NPRM, they would’ve learned the FAA was planning to expand the Class D and E airspace around Salem’s McNary Field (KSLE).
From the NPRM: “Class D airspace and Class E surface area airspace would extend upward from the surface to and including 2,700 feet within a 4-mile radius northeast of McNary Field, extending to 6.2 miles to the southeast, and 8.1 miles from the southeast to the northwest, excluding that airspace within 1.2 NM of Independence State Airport, OR. Class E airspace extending upward from 700 feet above the surface would be modified to within a 6.5-mile radius northeast of McNary Field, extending to 8.2 miles to the southeast, and 9.1 miles from the southeast to the northwest, excluding that airspace within 1.2 NM of Independence State Airport, OR.”
Here’s what that looks like:
Noticing the proposed changes, someone could’ve commented — this NPRM had a 45-day comment period — that there is a fairly tall hill about half way between the Salem and Independence airports and that it is possible to be in the Class D airspace with no radio or visual contact with the KSLE tower. I’m not an airspace engineer, but that seems like a bad thing.
The Oregon Pilots Association (OPA) sent an email to its membership on Sept. 3 that says, “The FAA, without any opportunity for public comment or any notice to the pilot community or the SLE tower personnel, expanded the Class Delta airspace to include the east side of the Independence (7S5) airspace.”
As I’ve already mentioned, the FAA did notify the community as it is required, via the Federal Register. The OPA email includes thoughts that would’ve been good to post in the public record. Sadly, they weren’t because they didn’t know.
Seeing those comments, and others, perhaps the FAA would’ve rethought the airspace design. At least, that’s what I hope they would’ve done. Maybe someone from the FAA would’ve called the people most directly impacted by the proposed change — upon seeing their concerns — to learn the nuances of the airspace and terrain.
It’s also possible the FAA would’ve just pushed forward with its proposal, but at least the comments would have been part of the public record.
As it stands, no comments were made, so the FAA made the airspace changes final as of Aug. 20. The changes will be charted on the “10 December 2015” sectional according to Allen Kenitzer, the FAA’s public affairs contact for the Northwest Mountain Region. Until then, the “changes are posted in the Airport Facility Directory (AF/D), in this case, on page 299.”
When I asked Kenitzer about other ways to communicate proposed changes, he said, “there is no other ‘official’ means for notifying the public that a change is imminent other than the Federal Register.”
In a more perfect world, I think it would be nice if the FAA, in addition to posting such notices to the Federal Register, would reach out to the Department of Aviation in the state most directly impacted by the proposed rule changes. That state agency could then reach out to the airport(s) and area pilots directly impacted for their thoughts. Then a group of people could work together to form a measured and proper set of comments.
While the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) does a great job helping to protect our freedom to fly… it can’t — and shouldn’t — be expected to see everything. We all need to step up.
Like I said, you should subscribe to the Federal Register.
To subscribe, go to FederalRegister.gov, then under Browse in the navigation bar, select Agencies and type FAA in the search bar. Once on the FAA page within the Federal Register, click the Subscribe button.