The International Aerobatic Club and EAA are working directly with FAA to obtain a categorical exclusion from overly burdensome environmental impact requirements that are currently proposed when pilots apply for an aerobatic practice area box. This development came during the annual EAA/FAA Recreational Aviation Summit on Jan. 23 at the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh.
Vicki Cruse, IAC president, represented the organization during the session. This annual meeting, unmatched anywhere else in the aviation community, included key aviation issues such as general aviation safety, aircraft certification, flight standards, and aircraft operations for aerobatic, vintage, amateur-built, and warbird aircraft.
Nick Sabatini, FAA Associate Administrator, led the FAA group that numbered more than a dozen agency officials. It was an opportunity to review progress since 2005, when IAC took proactive measures by quantifying noise levels in response to isolated public noise complaints. The goal was to develop legally defensible standards the FAA could use for the approval of aerobatic practice areas, as well as mitigating noise complaints from the public in those areas.
“Unfortunately, a draft document emerged from the agency that would require an applicant for an aerobatic practice area to research a plethora of unrelated environmental factors such as light emissions, endangered species, water and air quality, location of historic and cultural landmarks, and other requirements typically required of projects such as runway extensions or airport construction,” Cruse said. “While no standards were set with respect to noise, an application was created that, to date, no private citizen has been able to complete.”
FAA’s John Duncan, Manager of the General Aviation and Commercial Division, requested additional environmental studies of six aerobatic practice boxes. IAC’s government representatives will gather this information in their respective regions (in early 2007, three existing aerobatic boxes were used as a test of the draft environmental application). As a result of these studies, additional data will be collected to affirm that ground-based environmental impacts are not applicable to aerobatic boxes, a key finding in leading to a categorical exclusion.
“To get the categorical exemption, we need to go through this process,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government affairs. “The FAA needs to help us get to the right people to help with this process and propose acceptable environmental requirements for aerobatic boxes.”
In the meantime, aerobatic practice box requests will continue to be processed under the existing standards.
In other top IAC discussion areas during the summit:
1. Cruse requested that the current 300 nautical mile flight proficiency area of operation restriction for Group 1 experimental exhibition aircraft be eliminated to allow more freedom of flight and remove unnecessary paperwork for pilots and FSDOs. “These aircraft have continually proven that their operations have one of the best safety records in the industry,” she said.
2. Thanks to the FAA for recently approving two exemptions: allowing IAC pilots participating in IAC-sanctioned aerobatic competitions to carry less than the VFR fuel requirements under certain conditions; and enhancing safety by removing a requirement that the aircraft flight manual be in the airplane when practicing or competing.
3. Cruse announced an expansion of the IAC/NAFI designated instructor program to recognize outstanding aerobatic instructors. In addition to the current nine Master CFI Aerobatic instructors, the program recently recognized its first CFI-Aerobatic, Clarke McNease of Mesa, Arizona.
Watch for updates throughout the year in Sport Aerobatics magazine and through the www.iac.org website.