Local Pilots Still Not Happy
In the battle over airspace near Detroit (MI), the Air National
Guard has graciously blinked -- and yet, it may not be enough.
The 127th Wing, based at Selfridge ANGB, wants to expand the
Class D airspace around the base to protect aircraft making
"It's mainly a safety issue," said Mike LaJoy, the base's air
traffic control manager. He was quoted in the newspaper "Macomb
The original ANG proposal, which drew the ire of the EAA and
other advocates, called for increasing the entire Class D sector.
But the outcry was so sharp that LaJoy and his colleagues quickly
pulled back. That would have caused huge problems for pilots flying
in and out of Ray Community Airport in nearby Ray Township.
"We made an error and apologized to Ray Community," said LaJoy.
"We had no intentions of affecting Ray. We want to be good
Now, Selfridge only wants to increase the eastern half of the
Class D from 4.4 miles from the centerline of the airport to 5.7
miles. That would stretch further out into Lake St. Clair and
therein lies the problem.
Civil pilots are worried that the expansion of the Class D
airspace over the lake would make it tougher for pilots at Ray
Community Airport to get in and out without being gigged for
airspace intrusion. There are no landmarks over the lake -- the
locals say nothing short of a serious conversation with ATC and a
spot-on GPS or DME fix would tell them when they're approaching
The proposed expansion would also force civilian pilots to fly
closer to the international border, raising all sorts of national
security concerns in both the US and Canada. LaJoy says that's not
a worry, though. He figures there's enough US airspace east of the
proposed expansion to make approaching Ray a routine matter.
Alternatively, LaJoy said passing through the Class D expansion
would involve a simple call to the Selfridge tower. Traffic, he
said, is almost always allowed to pass through the Class D,
provided aircraft check out as non-security threats and they don't
overfly the base.
But that still doesn't work for NORDO VFR pilots.
Even with the apparent magnanimity from LaJoy and others in the
Selfridge tower, locals still aren't satisfied. Pilots like Macomb
County Judge Donald Miller say the military's reasoning is flawed
-- nobody has used a circle-to-land approach at Selfridge in recent
"Why?" he asked rhetorically. "Because unit commanders would
not, and still do not permit it. FAA statistics will confirm that
circling approaches are the cause of a very high percentage of
Miller said so in a recent letter to the Department of
transportation. "Please reject this proposed rule-making as
unnecessary and intrusive."
The debate -- sometimes contentious -- continues.