Friday, August 21, 2009

Eschew Obfuscation

I always get a kick out of the government's Federal Rulemaking process, a procedural system for changing regulations that has had far-reaching consequences on US citizens. When a decision is made to change a regulation, there is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and that's supposed to give the general public a chance to comment. If enough comments are received, the proposed changes may be modified or abandoned altogether. This is just what happened a few months ago when there was an NPR to restrict public access to bird-strike data, there was a significant and negative public reaction, and the proposed change was abandoned. This makes the NPR seems like a good process, but sometimes the notices are so arcane that it can be nearly impossible to determine just what is being proposed without being a subject matter expert or hiring an attorney.

I wrote a while ago about proposed T-routes that were submitted to the public simply as a series of latitude and longitude coordinates. Well it's happened again. There is a NPR to create a new restricted area in Southern California in the vicinity of Fort Irwin that would extend from the surface to 16,000 feet and would change the boundaries of an existing Military Operations Area. I don't fly in that area too often, but my curiosity was piqued because of how the area was described.
R-2502A Fort Irwin, CA [New]

Boundaries. Beginning at lat. 35[deg]25'48'' N., long.
116[deg]18'48'' W.; to lat. 35[deg]25'30'' N., long. 116[deg]09'46''
W.; to lat. 35[deg]23'15'' N., long. 116[deg]09'47'' W.; to lat.
35[deg]06'54'' N., long. 116[deg]30'17'' W.; to lat. 35[deg]07'00'' N.,
long. 116[deg]34'03'' W.; to lat. 35[deg]18'45'' N., long.
116[deg]18'48'' W. to point of beginning.
Designated altitudes. Surface to 16,000 feet MSL.
Time of designation. Continuous.
Controlling agency. FAA, Hi-Desert TRACON, Edwards, CA.
Using agency. Commander, Fort Irwin, CA.

Riiight ...

For their part, AOPA announced the NPR and provided a teeny tiny graphic of what was being proposed. So being a good citizen, I used MacGPS Pro and dutifully entered the six lat/long coordinates onto a downloaded LA VFR sectional. This should give you a better idea of the new restricted area being proposed.

The area is just West of the Baker airport and North of the Barstow-Daggett airport and the Daggett VOR. I don't have a problem with the new restricted airspace since it doesn't seem to eat into the narrow corridor of available airspace that pilots use when transitioning over the Mojave Desert, I do have a problem with the area not being described in a way that the average person can understand, thereby preventing or limiting the amount of comments.

Perhaps I've missed something and this proposed restricted area is a bad idea. Or maybe the idea of further carving up the national airspace system for military use rubs you the wrong way. In any event, if you'd like to comment on this NPR I'll make it very easy: Click here and fire away. You have until August 27, 2009.

1 comment:

Wayne Conrad said...

You're exactly right. Obfuscation is not compatible with open government. They should provide both a map and the coordinates.