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Private Pilots Protest FAA Call for Altitude-Fixing Instruments

February 17, 1988|ERIC MALNIC and BART EVERETT | Times Staff Writers

In a move that generated immediate opposition from private pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed Tuesday that all planes operating within 40 miles of more than 250 of the nation's airports be required to carry electronic equipment that would broadcast their altitude to air traffic controllers.

In effect, the proposal would prohibit aircraft without the altitude-reporting Mode C transponders from flying over most of Southern California.

Would Aid Safety

"By taking advantage of the existing aviation technology, this rule, if adopted, will provide a significant enhancement to the safety of our nation's flying public," FAA Administrator T. Allan McArtor said.

In addition to telling radar-equipped controllers a plane's exact location, the Mode C transponders would interact with collision-avoidance systems that will be required on commercial airliners in the future.

In addition to affecting the airspace surrounding the airports, McArtor's proposal calls for all aircraft flying at 6,000 feet or above in most other areas to be equipped with the transponders.

The transponders currently are required aboard all planes flying above 12,500 feet and in the restricted airspace surrounding the nation's 23 busiest airports, among them Los Angeles International.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., which represents private pilots and other general aviation interests, called the action "precipitous" and "heavy-handed," saying that it would force many pilots--among them crop dusters and owners of antique aircraft--to install expensive equipment in aircraft that seldom come into conflict with airline traffic.

Edmund Pinto, a spokesman for the association in Frederick, Md., estimated that the rule would affect 1.5-million square miles of airspace over the United States, and said the FAA's air traffic control system does not yet have radar coverage capable of handling such a requirement.

Among the 254 airports named by McArtor are 13 in Southern California:

Meadows Field in Bakersfield, Burbank Airport, El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Los Angeles International Airport, March Air Force Base in Riverside, Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, Ontario International Airport, Palm Springs Municipal Airport, Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Lindbergh Field in San Diego and Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

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