Aerobatics Area Preserved, Rule's Interpretation Refined
EAA says the FAA has backed off on its interpretation of an airspace designation that would have closed an aerobatic area near Minneapolis. In fact, as a private individual, Robert Hucker, of Lakeville, Minn., had better luck convincing the agency of the error of its ways than EAA, whose similar arguments were rejected by the FAA seven years ago. FAA practice had been to ban aerobatics anywhere "within the lateral boundaries of the surface areas of a Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E designated for an airport." It got Hucker's attention because the agency recently expanded Class B airspace around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport from 20 nm to 30 nm, encompassing a well-used aerobatic area 25 nm southwest of MSP. But Hucker successfully argued that because the aerobatic areas was under the floor elevation of the Class B, the ban shouldn't apply because the airspace doesn't actually contact the "surface" of the earth. "The (1999 FAA) explanation to EAA's petition didn't seem right to me," Hucker said. "Plus use of the term, 'surface area,' was inconsistent, so I decided to put together some facts and file my own petition." Maybe it was the way he explained it but this time the FAA went for it. "Upon review, we conclude that the EAA was indeed correct in its understanding of 'surface areas,'" FAA lawyer Rebecca MacPherson wrote to Hucker. "In responding to your inquiry, we concluded that our 1999 interpretation was inconsistent with the term 'surface area' as used by Air Traffic Organization (ATO) airspace planners to describe only airspace that touches the surface of the earth."