A Congressional field hearing was held on Monday night (6/10/13) at the Autry National Center, in Los Angeles. David Suomi, the acting Regional Administrator of the FAA’s Western Pacific Region, told attendees that FAA supports asking pilots to fly at higher altitudes and working with homeowners to identify problem areas.
The meeting was attended by several hundred citizens. Three elected officials attended the panel discussion: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank (who introduced the Helicopter Noise Relief Act); Tony Cardenas, D-Arleta; and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Mr. Suomi’s tactic appears to be very consistent with FAA’s recent 56-page report: why not just blind the audience with complexity? Why not confuse them with assurances that this little man behind the curtain is truthful when he says this airspace is congested and complex and therefore, the best solution is to ask helicopter pilots to voluntarily fix the problem? Just a humble opinion here, but is this yet another example of federal disservice evidencing full-blown regulatory capture? Would FAA please do their job and manage the LA Basin helicopter issue, so as to serve the entire Public? …Please???
In reality, this is not about airspace complexity, nor is it about congestion. This is about a regulatory agency lacking the will to do its full job.
Yes, the LA Basin is a large populated area with numerous airports, and a couple of those airports have constant streams of air traffic. It was decades ago that FAA asserted much greater control of the LA Basin airspace; they had to, after the two big midairs in the area – San Diego in 1978, and Cerritos in 1986. FAA redesigned the airspace to protect the commercial flows. They jammed general aviation into the bottom few thousand feet, under the commercial flow. And, they adopted a strategy related to helicopters that had them on the bottom of the safety pecking order, dodging trees and towers in the lowest altitudes. The residents had to put up with this poor design. And, yeah, it has been thirty years since that airspace design was done implemented.
Since then, we have seen massive technological improvements for both pilots and ATC. We now have far superior collision avoidance technologies on most aircraft, and ATC has the tools for precise traffic management. All of this so-called congestion and complexity is easily managed: simply define the few key corridors and keep all other traffic out of them. FAA has done this many times before, and they can do it again … but this time with an eye toward giving LA Basin residents some relief from the noise impact of helicopters.
What is Mr. Suomi really saying? Is he showing us that FAA just wants to continue to delay, that FAA does not want to impose restrictions/changes upon the small group of people they really serve — the aviation community?
I hope that Mr. Suomi can prove this wrong.