FAA Sequestration-Inspired ATC Procedure/Equipment Cut Makes Safety Sense

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ARTICLE: Proposed Policy for Discontinuance of Certain Instrument Approach Procedures


Sequestration caused the FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) to make some ill-considered decisions as slashes to its operational expenses. The litigation attacking that ATO choice revealed analysis which in its best light was superficial and worst case, bereft of real safety analysis.

The above notice proposes the “cancellation of certain Non-directional Beacon (NDB) and Very High Frequency (VHF) Omni-directional Radio Range (VOR) instrument approach procedures (IAP) at airports that have multiple instrument approach procedures.” The policy is, in part, forced by sequestration and the underlying fine financial microscope. Further, the notice includes a very specific set of principles :

  • Airports that would be considered for NDB or VOR IAP cancellation:
  • All airports with an NDB IAP.
  • All airports with a VOR/DME RNAV IAP, unless it is the only IAP at the airport.
  • All airports with two or more ground-based IAPs and an RNAV IAP.
  • All airports with multiple, redundant ground-based IAPs (e.g., three VOR procedures).

This proposed action appears to have learned from the Spring Contract Tower attack for it appears to be better on a number of levels. First, ATO issued a request for comments in the Federal Register. The comment period was reasonable – 60 days allowed to prepare a response. Second, ATO articulated precise criteria which have sound safety bases, not just political expedient fiscal actions. Most importantly, ATO’s proposed action is supported by a thorough, independent study of the safety impacts. The highly respected Flight Safety Foundation found that many of the approaches were underutilized and /or redundant.

While it is possible that some of the low tech GA users may have some problems with this proposal, the process allows AOPA and other groups to voice their opinions without the “shadow of the gallows” which was part of the Contract Tower closure fiasco.

Good job ATO! This looks like a policy which will reduce expenditures at places where it makes safety sense.

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