In late 2013, after two years of meetings and data gathering, the Mat-Su Traffic Working Group submitted its recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to alleviate mid-air concerns in the Southcentral Alaska region. The group, combined of representatives from a multitude of aviation organizations, was formed in response to multiple complaints and a deadly mid-air collision in July 2011. It sought public comment through an online survey and also met with pilots at the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering last May along with conducting numerous public meetings. The consistent and overwhelming concern from users of the Mat-Su airspace was confusion over proper radio frequencies. This was the primary issue the working group has sought to address.
In his recent report on the matter, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Regional Manager Tom George provides a concise overview of the submitted recommendations. First and foremost, the group created four "Area Frequency" zones which would be recommended for use when pilots were not in direct contact with Air Traffic Control. Any pre-existing Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies (CTAFs) would be changed to match the new recommended zone frequencies, eliminating any conflicts. Outside of the four zones pilots would use either published CTAF frequencies for airports or 122.9 MHz, the common default in uncontrolled airspace.
George has posted a map showing the proposed zones.
Other recommendations include creating "VFR reporting points" for high-traffic areas as identified by the group and clarifying the language in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), to recognize the Area Frequency zones.
The group's goals are clear: to reduce the number of conflicting radio frequencies in the Mat-Su so that pilots are more likely to speak to each other and to reduce existing confusion over proper frequency use. There will be far fewer frequency overlaps and proper usage will be much more clearly defined.
From this point, the FAA will have to review the recommendations and then make changes to existing charts, CTAF assignments, etc. The process will take several months and no changes will take affect until full implementation by the FAA. The working group will now tackle other concerns in the region in their efforts to improve the air safety of Alaska's skies.
Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.