Restricted Area Expanded over Stennis Space Center

 - April 18, 2016, 5:19 PM

The FAA adopted a proposed rule that removes restricted area R–4403 over Gainesville, Miss., and replaces it with an expanded area redesignated as R–4403A, B, C, E and F over Mississippi's Stennis Space Center (SSC). According to the agency, more restricted airspace is necessary to support NASA testing and Navy training requirements, including weapons firing. In response to the proposal, 11 comments were submitted by four individuals and seven organizations, including AOPA; two individuals supported the proposal.
One commenter suggested that the restricted area be changed to an military operations area (MOA), but the FAA said this is impossible because weapons firing is not permitted in an MOA. Regarding a comment that another existing special use airspace area should be used instead of expanding R–4403, the FAA said it would be economically unfeasible to relocate the NASA testing and military training infrastructure. In response to commenter concerns about notification issues, the agency revised the proposalto state that activations of the R–4403 complex will require that a Notam be issued at least 24 hours in advance.
The original proposal included a plan to fire laser weapons in R–4403E. However, respondents expressed concerns about eye safety, so the Navy dropped that plan. The restricted area expansion becomes effective on May 26, 2016, to coincide with both the next edition of the New Orleans Sectional Chart, IFR chart cycle and approach plate revisions.