ALPA: Space Ops Create Airspace Challenges

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As private space launches increase and diversify, those activities are causing “significant impacts” on commercial aviation, according to a white paper (PDF) published by ALPA last week. Those impacts include flight delays, flight-plan alterations, increased distance flown, longer flight times, flight cancellations, crew duty cycle changes, gate slot management and added fuel burn. As one example, ALPA said the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch in February affected 5,000 square NM of airspace, causing 563 flight delays averaging eight minutes each, and an additional 34,841 NM flown due to diversions.

As spaceflight becomes more diffuse and routine, ALPA said, both the space and aviation sectors must cooperate to create policies, regulations and procedures to manage shared national aerospace resources safely and efficiently. ALPA said it is concerned that as demand for access to airspace increases, that demand may place pressure on regulators and operators to reduce the size of the airspace protection zones, so as to minimize commercial space’s operational impact on commercial aviation. “Without proper mitigations in place, the elevated levels of risk may not be acceptable,” ALPA said. “The FAA needs a comprehensive plan to integrate commercial space operations and avoid major disruptions for the other users of the NAS.”

Comments (3)

ALPA is complaining about an average 8 minute delay on a few dozen flights for the launch of the Falcon heavy. I don't hear any complaints about the delays on hundreds of flights each day due to poor flight scheduling by the airlines at airports all across the country.

Posted by: John McNamee | July 4, 2018 10:49 AM    Report this comment

For 60 years the federal government launched thousands of rockets from White Sands, Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg. ALPA's sudden concern suggests an agenda that is not related to delays, fuel consumption, or safety.

Posted by: kim hunter | July 4, 2018 2:32 PM    Report this comment

This would be the same ALPA that gets a seat at the table every time ATC privatization raises it's head to be slapped down in the game of "whack a mole" we now call politics

Posted by: Trip Taylor | July 5, 2018 12:28 PM    Report this comment

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