A. What would the potential FAA airspace change mean to South Bay cities?
The FAA’s consideration of a significantly more restrictive airspace surrounding Long Beach Airport (“LGB”) is based upon reported concerns about safety. It has been reported that JetBlue Airlines has requested the change due to the frequency of traffic collision avoidance alerts it’s experiencing. The FAA’s proposed LGB Class C airspace would be about 3 times larger than the existing Class D airspace.
While passenger safety is of the upmost importance, the City Council, Staff, and the City’s aviation consultants are extremely concerned about the “unintended consequences” that could be experienced by the City and neighboring South Bay coastal communities, including:
- Increased safety risks resulting from a greater number of general aviation (“GA”) aircraft flights compressed in flight areas;
- Environmental impacts, especially increased aircraft noise and air pollution from piston-powered and turboprop aircraft;
- Increase of GA aircraft flights across the entire PV Peninsula, as well neighborhoods in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Torrance and San Pedro; and
- Increased workload of FAA traffic controllers, possibly impairing passenger flight safety.
B. Why would there be “unintended consequences”?
Today, GA pilots merely advise the LGB tower when entering its Class D airspace.
With the change, pilots would be required to obtain authorization from air traffic controllers prior to entering the FAA’s proposed Class C airspace. Because controllers must manage passenger traffic as a priority during peak periods, GA pilots may not obtain authorization timely and divert their flight around or over the PV Peninsula, as well as neighboring communities.
The same controllers who manage passenger flights for the entire southern CA region, including LAX, San Diego’s airport, John Wayne Airport and Burbank, would now take on responsibility for tracking GA aircraft flying within the FAA’s extended LGB Class C airspace.
C. What would happen as a result of the proposed change?
1. Flight instructional aircraft from schools based at Hawthorne Airport, Compton Airport and Zamperini Field (Torrance) would likely move from the LA/Long Beach harbor “practice and instructional area” (a major portion of which would become restrictive Class C airspace) to the entire Palos Verdes coastline.
2. A greater number of general aviation aircraft departing from Zamperini Field (Torrance) will avoid the Class C airspace:
A) Departing west, turning south along the entire Palos Verdes coastline, over neighborhoods in Redondo Beach, Torrance (Torrance Beach), Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes; or
B) Departing west, turning 180 degrees right and flying along the northeastern and eastern edges of the Palos Verdes Peninsula over and near neighborhoods along the Western Avenue corridor, including Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Lomita, San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes; or
C) Across the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
3. A greater number of general aviation aircraft currently flying over coastal southern California using the Mini-Route and visual flight rules (“VFR”) will divert around the Class C airspace, instead flying:
A) Along the entire Palos Verdes coastline, over neighborhoods in Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance (Torrance Beach), Palos Verdes Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes; or
B) Along the northeastern and eastern edges of the Palos Verdes Peninsula over and near neighborhoods along the Western Avenue corridor, including Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Lomita, San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes; or
C) Across the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
D.. How have local cities responded?
The City of Rancho Palos Verdes volunteered to take the lead on a coordinated response to this important issue. We discussed the FAA’s proposed airspace change with the city managers of several of the neighboring cities that would be impacted by a potential change.
Six cities—RPV, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Palos Verdes Estates, Torrance and Redondo Beach—worked together to advise the FAA that the proposed airspace change appears flawed.
The goal is to develop a collaborative process that improves passenger safety without compromising the safety of GA aircraft and our residents, or the quality of life of our residents. The coordinated effort includes:
A) Providing timely comments to the FAA, followed by an effort to develop a solution with the FAA that will be in the best interest of the aviation community and South Bay residents, as well as the tourism community;
B) Each city to provide a public comment letter addressed to the FAA that would be signed by the Mayor or City Manager; and
C)) Rancho Palos Verdes Staff with its aviation consultant and the community compiled and submitted additional technical information to the FAA prior to its September 21st deadline.
E. What is the consultant doing?
Williams Aviation Consultants was retained to assist the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and participating neighboring communities with an evaluation of the potential impacts resulting from the FAA’s proposed airspace change. This evaluation was submitted to the FAA. WAC is one of the leading aviation consulting groups in the country. The consulting staff includes professionals that worked in the Southern California region of the FAA before leaving public service. They are very familiar with the airspace in the LA Basin. WAC continues to work with staff to monitor this issue closely.
Williams has the expertise to evaluate technical and flight data to ascertain:
- Whether the FAA’s proposed airspace change is necessary;
- The potential impact on FAA air traffic controller staff who primarily manage passenger flights;
- The possibility of an increase of over flights across Rancho Palos Verdes, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and neighboring cities; and
- The likelihood of whether additional GA aircraft will divert from the Class C airspace over the City and neighboring communities.
F. What is the current status of the proposal?
- The City’s aviation consultant, Tom Kamman of Williams Aviation Consulting, advised the City to continue monitoring the FAA’s actions regarding the proposed airspace change, but refrain from engaging in a dialogue at this time. Mr. Kamman believes that the substantial opposition expressed by the seven South bay cities, especially RPV, may have caused the FAA to decide not to move forward at this time.
- The FAA is reportedly beginning to launch a project to redesign the entire airspace in Southern California. Conceptually, the redesign of Southern California airspace is long overdue. However, it may cause unfavorable noise impacts through-out the entire region, including the City. Several recent personnel changes within the FAA, as well as the eduction of the FAA talent pool in Southern California, should cause the City to carefully watch the FAA’s next steps.
- Staff has heard some chatter from sources in the aviation community in recent months about the possibility that the proposed designation change may be gathering momentum. Nothing has been confirmed at this time.
- Staff, with the assistance of its aviation consultant, will continue to monitor this situation closely.
G. What should the public do?
City of Rancho Palos Verdes Staff expects to provide additional information about this important issue using its Aircraft Noise listserver group (http://pvalert.com/listserver/) and its website (http://www.palosverdes.com/rpv) as more information becomes available. The public is encouraged to let the City know their thoughts and concerns regarding Peninsula airspace issues by emailing Email staff at email@example.com.