Airspace Changes Concern Pilots

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Just about everyone involved in aviation in the adjoining cities of Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., is urging the FAA to put the brakes on a surprise airspace change that would give aircraft using Portland International priority over those using Vancouver's Pearson Field. They're also wondering about the uncharacteristic speed with which the FAA is bringing in the changes. Local officials found out about the change last Thursday and it takes effect Oct. 1. "This is a sudden rules change," Vancouver's Communications Manager Barbara Ayers told the Columbian. "It's going to have significant impacts on our community, and we're concerned about it."

The change would create the "Pearson Box," a one-mile by eight-mile strip of airspace extending from PDX's Runway 10 west to encompass the smaller airport. Within that space, controllers would be able to give PDX traffic priority, either holding departing Pearson traffic on the ground or putting arrival traffic in holds. Vancouver officials say the new rule will be especially tough on the flight schools that use Pearson and because the airspace plan is so unusual it will likely confuse pilots unfamiliar with the area. FAA spokeswoman Linda Schneider said the change will prevent conflicts and said there will still be plenty of access to Pearson. "We're all in this together to keep this as safe as we can, and as efficient as we can," Schneider said.