GRG Airspace changes
To all pilots living and flying on the Garden Route.
As you all should be aware of, the George airspace is about to be changed. But firstly let me thank those who brought this to our attention and also to Jan and Roy who made the first contact with the role players in this process.
Some back ground.
Due to the nature of that first meeting, SAHPA petitioned the outcome with ATNS and the GRG ATSU. The main reason for this is because SAHPA felt that the agreement brokered was not representative of the actual flying being done by hang and paraglider pilots (ie we needed more space) and that it was not formal or permanent. Specifically, the arrangement was made to continue to use the Map airspace with an informal verbal agreement between the flying community and the GRG ATSU. Much like the arrangement in the past but with one major change - all of the airspace between the Map and Gerrickes would become part of the GRG CTR, leaving SAHPA pilots completely exposed to the mercy of not just GRG ATSU but all of the laws governing CTR's. We would be left with no formal rights to fly in this area at all. For the National body, this informal verbal agreement concerning such an important airspace and part of our sport was unacceptable. With this in mind, I was approached from the Aeroclub Chairman and the SAHPA Airspace liason officer to represent SAHPA at a meeting with all concerned parties. These included representatives from CAA, ATNS, GRG ATSU, MISASA, SAPFA, PASA, SAHPA, Springbok Aviation ATO, Starlite ATO and an independent representative. The meeting happened on the 4th of August at the GRG Airport.
There was mutual consent that the meeting was constructive and we all managed to walk out in time for lunch. I have a recording of the whole meeting and anybody is welcome to have a copy and listen to the discussion. (It is just under two hours long). The meeting was minuted and as soon as they have been sent to me I will forward it to the regional clubs and schools (and anybody else who would a like a copy).
There are many reasons why the controlled airspace needs to be changed and increased, however what impressed me most was that there truly is a spirit of consultation and working together to take into account all the users of the airspace. They idea was not simply to change the airspace to suite large commercial airlines but to change it to suit ALL users - hang glider and paraglider pilot included. The trick of course was to find ways of doing that while staying within the boundaries of the current aviation laws, especially those that govern controlled airspace. (It is an interesting exercise to create an area for hang glider and paraglider pilots within a CTR!)
For now I can say that as far as the changes concerning the hang gliding and paragliding pilots we have come to an agreement that I think suits us. We had to give a little but we got a great deal in return. The gist of the meeting is that we have secured the original airspace we have become used to using, for our flying activities for the whole region - not just an area around the Map. ATNS have agreed to set aside an area from sea level to 1500ft, with East/west boundaries between Wilderness and Sedgefield (from the 8NM to the 13 NM radius boundary), while the southern boundary is 2NM seawards from the shore line and the northern boundary is the end of the TMA (near the foot of the Outeniqwa mountains). In essence it is the area we have been flying in up to now. We had to compromise on section Foxtrot of the airspace which covers the area over the Outeniqwas and north up to the 25NM radius boundary. Here the TMA has been lowered from 7500 to 6500ft. It means you cannot climb as high when over the mountains, however this does not affect the majority of pilots. For the serious XC buffs it is a small sacrifice for securing our normal flying area.
At present we have until the end of September to come up with a plan of implementation. Key terms in this negotiation were: that this area is not temporary but a permanent one. The use of transponders and radios are not compulsory. The area is automatically activated during VFR daylight conditions. Certain sections will be activated during IFR conditions. For this particular point we still need to iron out stipulations to cover it from a legal point of view - ie GRG is closed for VFR traffic but we can still fly along the coast because cloud base is above 600ft (as is used for general aviation during special VFR cases within the CTR). We have to accommodate our use of this airspace when cloud base is less than 600ft - for example, our crafts fly at 20-30kph and flying on the wilderness and surrounding dunes can be done safely, thus we can continue to train pilots on the sand dunes in these conditions. It was agreed that because GRG is closed for VFR traffic during these conditions there will be no conflict along the coast with VFR traffic in any event. And because the IFR traffic is controlled by GRG ATSU and they know exactly where we are (in a particular block of airspace) the GRG ATSU (the ATC guys) can show CAA that there is a "deemed separation". And this is a legal practicality.
Of paramount importance! There is the issue of implementing the strict adherence to Airspace - absolutely no transgressing the 1500ft ASL limit will be tolerated. We need to put into place a mechanism that will ensure the communication of this important information to who-ever flies in this region. (Like a signed notification from each individual, which will become a legally binding document).
A note on flying the Outeniqwas. There is a chance we might be able to create what is called a "blue route" along the Outeniqwas for glider pilots. This route will be on Airspace maps and under certain conditions can be activated by ATCU under the request of the soaring pilots. We need to provide some GPS routes of the Outeniqwa area so that Gunter (from ATNS) can have a look at these and see if it will impact with their traffic design. Gunter is very accommodating on this principle and I think we must use this and see if it will work. Again it sets a great precedent.
These are key issues that need to be put onto black and white in a way that it can be legally implemented with existing CTR rules. I have been assured it is not impossible.
I will still be available to help where ever I can but will be out of the country from the 15th of August until November. We will need a key liaison officer from the Garden Route that can run with this process in my absence. The truth is that this is so important for hang and paragliding in SA, I suggest two or three people to help see this through. Remember the idea is not to stop NASCOM but to make sure they take our needs seriously and help to accommodate us. This is a great precedent case and will pave the way for working together in the future in a more advantageous way - they will not go ahead without changes to airspace before proper consultation with us (SAHPA) and we know we can get our needs accommodated within the frame work of the law.
That's it for now guys,
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