Ed O'Grady

FAA Airspace Authorization & Waiver Experiences / Notes

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Have you requested a waiver or an airspace authorization from the FAA? If so, I would be very interested to hear about your experience.  What were you looking for, what did you end up getting, how long did it take, and so on.  I've already gotten an airspace authorization (not as much as I wanted) and am waiting for a waiver of Daylight Operations.  How about you?

 

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Here's how my airspace authorization went.  To start, understand that my local airspace is Class E surface during daylight hours (there are slight seasonal adjustments to that but thats close enough).  The request was for an area 3 miles in diameter beginning at a point somewhat north of center of the 5 mile radius of the airport.  I actually got a phone call from the contractor assigned to the request and we spent some time discussing how we could reach an agreement on the authorization.  He explained that the grids that the airport facility had provided to FAA headquarters (that's my wording - his was something like that) indicated that the lowest clear airspace was zero feet AGL (over the runway) so therefore he could not provide authorization much better than that.  My response to him was that that did not provide me any relief whatsoever.  So the best we could come up with was a 1 mile radius at a point 4 miles north of the airport and a 100 ft AGL limit - beyond that distance form the airport I would be in the clear (Class E 700 ft).  He spent the entire afternoon getting all the forms set up and forwarded to me and I was quite impressed but frankly, not thrilled about the actual authorization.  For the moment it works for me but the goal is a real time online process to handle this.  This guy was a retired ATCS (controller) and working for a contractor from home.  He told me that the initial authorization would not prevent me from requesting another so I accepted it and decided I would proceed from there.  I would be very interested in hearing how others have fared with similar authorization requests.

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Thanks for starting this thread. I've been getting a lot of questions about authorizations and waivers and will point people here as a resource / sharing opportunity.

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Hey gang! 

Our company has received numerous airspace authorizations under the Standard COA and 333 process. Under 107, We've gotten a few for the class D and Class C, and one on the way for the B! 

Here's my secrets: 

1. Make a case, and present evidence

Take a look at the previous waivers that others where granted. Look for ones that are the most similar to your operation, and resent them as evidence that your operation can be conducted safely. An effective way of phrasing it might be:

"Operations shall be conducted pursuant to special procedures provided specified (COA number) presented to (Person/Agency)

Use 2 or 3 of these examples, either from 107, Standard COA (333) or preferably both. I always chuckle as I write these, because its the aviation equivalent of "HEY, you let THEM do it!" But it's effective, because it makes it difficult for the inspector to justify a denial on the grounds of safety, specifically because similar authorizations are floating around, and are by the FAA's own admission, not unsafe. 

2. Have a map ready! 

The easier time the inspector has viewing and understanding your request, the better you'll fare. 

for example: "an area defined as a .25NM radius around (GPS Point) at or below 400' AGL" is hard for an inspector to visualize, and for most of what we're flying, we don't need that broad of a space. 

The more precise of a location you can give an inspector, the more accurate of a safety determination they will be able to make. If your broad radius crosses approach and departure paths at a nearby airport for example, that'll either hold you up, restrict your altitude or flat out get denied. Ask only for what you need, but give yourself enough wiggle room to be safe.

 

Hope this helps! Good luck!

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Outstanding advice @BrendanS_AVI and thanks for sharing it.  I'm awaiting a night waiver as we speak.

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Ed (and others),

I would love to see some examples shared of successful Class D or C surface airspace "Authorizations" - I'm not looking for waivers. I've got several floating out there with the FAA for months and haven't heard anything so I've no idea if I'm even on the right track.

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15 minutes ago, Steve Bennett said:

Ed (and others),

I would love to see some examples shared of successful Class D or C surface airspace "Authorizations" - I'm not looking for waivers. I've got several floating out there with the FAA for months and haven't heard anything so I've no idea if I'm even on the right track.

Send me your email in a private message and I'll send you a couple.

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My only airspace authorization is in Class E surface airspace.

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4 hours ago, Steve Bennett said:

Ed (and others),

I would love to see some examples shared of successful Class D or C surface airspace "Authorizations" - I'm not looking for waivers. I've got several floating out there with the FAA for months and haven't heard anything so I've no idea if I'm even on the right track.

Hey Steve,

 

I was advised by an FAA representative in Washington that only airspace authorizations are being approved until June, when the online system is set to change.

That being said, I just received a waiver on behalf of a client in the Class D from what appeared to be an FAA-affiliated contractor.

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Thanks for the info Brendan, good to know they are still granting approvals. June is a much closer date than what I heard previously. I was expecting end of year or later for the online approval app/process to change. 

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I'm out on the FAA site looking over 107 waivers.  I don't see any 107.41 - airspace.  I would like to operate in a town that has a non-towered airport right outside of town (E).  I was hoping to see some examples so I have an idea of what to request.  I hope to augment my real estate/vacation home rental business with drone photography.  I would also like to take on other jobs in the area. The E airspace covers about half of the lake and a major part of the city.  I attached a visual of the city and marked a 1 mile and 1.5 mile along with the 5 mile radius.  Any suggestions and guidance would be appreciated!

Bio - Part 107 status-temporary license issued, Flying drones for a little over two years. 

visual map of area.PNG

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I looked at the chart, NOTAMS, and supplement for your area.  The yellow circle you posted here corresponds to the Class E Surface airspace around KMCW.  To fly within that you will need an authorization.  Outward from that circle is Class E which is 700 feet and above.  You don't need any authorization to fly there and you are not required to notify anyone.

On the FAA site you will not see airspace authorizations that have been approved - only waivers.  FAA is working on a system that will provide real time authorizations and I am told it MIGHT be here this summer (dont hold your breath). So for now, you will need to use the web portal process.  I live in an area with similar airspace classifications and no tower.  I submitted a request back in October and I heard from FAA about 30 days later.  I was trying to get an area equivalent to nearly the full yellow circle you posted.  Didn't happen. See my postings above. I would expect you may get an OK for that western part of Mason City that is Class E Surface but the city of Clear Lake will be a bit tougher.  Keep in mind that this is simply based on my personal experience.  Follow the FAA instructions and their standards and then wait! Good luck to you and keep us posted.  If I can be of any additional help, just give a shout.

 

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Thanks for the Reply Ed!  I plan to apply and I will post the outcome.  Your expectations are my fears.  I would like to responsibly fly Clear Lake.  With half of the Lake and a majority of the city in Class E, it is where a good portion of my businesses and activity is located.  We will see what happens!  

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I will bet that you may get some of that airspace but will be restricted to 100 to 200 ft AGL.  Good luck and I hope I am completely wrong.

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I can live with that!  Most of the work would be below 100-200 AGL.  It would be the few aerial shots to show location to the lake or a point of interest.  I have been training on my acreage in Class G airspace and found 150 AGL to be more than enough for some beautiful aerial views and I am able to display about 2.5 acres.  I will post an update.  I hope for a positive outcome!

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@Sonja Muhm I would state in the authorization request that you will set an AGL of 100' in your flight controls prior to launch, I'm guessing it should make it a bit easier to approve. 

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As some folks may know, I follow FAA waivers several times daily and have been doing so since August 29th.  Typically, waivers are posted on an FAA page entitled "Part 107 Waivers Granted".  These are posted every 2 days or so and sometimes daily.  On a few occasions the gap between postings has been 3 business days but that is not the norm.  Here's my concern - the gap right now is from Jan 23 and as of 4pm today, Feb 1, nothing new has been posted.  That does not mean they have not approved any waivers, but simply that nothing has been posted.

So my concern is that somehow a waiver of an existing regulation might be construed as a "new" regulation which would be in violation of the President's executive order. Hmmm.....

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Spoke with an FAA inspector this morning and he said that waivers are not new regulations and as such are not subject ot the Executive Order. So, we wait.......

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On 1/4/2017 at 7:50 AM, Ed O'Grady said:

Have you requested a waiver or an airspace authorization from the FAA? If so, I would be very interested to hear about your experience.  What were you looking for, what did you end up getting, how long did it take, and so on.  I've already gotten an airspace authorization (not as much as I wanted) and am waiting for a waiver of Daylight Operations.  How about you?

 

My class D airspace authorizations are coming in fast and furious, sometimes two per day. I am only giving 2 weeks advance notice and is taking about 4 weeks to turn around. (Phoenix, AZ) Hopefully the constipation in the process is over.

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4 WEEKS!?!? :o

Wow that's fast. 

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Thanks. I'm guessing is different for different areas of the country...

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