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Planely speaking: FAA plan would remove Covington from Class B airspace

Photo by ee

Photo by ee

COVINGTON -- Under a new proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration, Covington Municipal Airport would be removed from Class B airspace, meaning that aircraft could be allowed to fly at any altitude without contact with air traffic control.

Depending on the direction they're coming from, planes flying above 8,000 or 10,000 feet in the airspace above Covington Municipal Airport are required to be in contact with air traffic control -- that requirement has been removed under the FAA's preliminary design for changes to Class B airspace, said FAA Spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen.

"There would not be much effect to planes flying in and out of the airport," Bergen said, noting that planes taking off or landing would be below the 8,000 and 10,000 foot threshold anyway.

Previously, the FAA had proposed expanding Class B airspace, which would have reduced the space commercial aircraft could fly from 8,000 to 4,000 feet. But a new proposal would shrink the Class B airspace to exclude Covington.

"After considering the comments we got, we believe this may work the best now," Bergen said.

A public meeting was held on the matter last week at City Hall. Public comments are being accepted by mail through April 3. Comments should be sent to Mark Ward, Manager, Operations Support Group, Eastern Service Area, Air Traffic Organization, Federal Aviation Administration, P.O. Box 20636, Atlanta, GA 30320.

Class B airspace is established by the FAA around major, high-density U.S. airports. All aircraft operating in Class B airspace must communicate with air traffic control and activate the aircraft transponder, which allows controllers to identify the aircraft on radar.

Class B airspace allows the large volume of air carrier flights to safely operate in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport without interference from flights that are not in direct communication with air traffic control, according to a fact sheet from FAA.

Class B airspace extends to the ground at the Atlanta airport and overlies but does not reach the ground over satellite airports. It is often described as an upside-down wedding cake with the top layer directly over the Atlanta airport and the other layers extending over to satellite airports.

In 2007, a review revealed several areas where arrivals and departures were not fully contained within the existing Class B airspace, resulting in aircraft extending 1 or 2 miles outside the airspace in certain areas. To correct the problem, the FAA initiated a study to find the best way to modify the airspace.

Following the close of the public comment period, the FAA will evaluate comments, then send the proposal on to Washington for further evaluation. It will then be open for additional public comments. Any changes to the airspace will take between 18 months and two years to finalize.