Oct. 8, 2020

Citing threats to aviation safety, NBAA and other aviation stakeholders this week urged the FAA to reconsider an agreement with New Frontier Aerospace to test unmanned hypersonic drone rockets at the Colorado Air and Space Port (CASP).

The former Front Range Airport is within 6 miles of Denver International Airport (DEN), and industry leaders believe these tests “will create unnecessary safety hazards and airspace conflicts in proximity to a commercial airport that is critical to the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System (NAS).”

To minimize airspace and safety impacts, the FAA and CASP said during the launch license application process that the vehicles would be limited to those “capable of takeoffs and landings characteristics similar to conventional aviation.” In its formal response to the application, the FAA said that “operational parameters” confining spaceport operations to ensure the safe and efficient use of the NAS would be codified between CASP and Denver International Airport.

Unfortunately, no such formal agreement has been reached to date.

CASP is a busy general aviation airport, and the letter notes the latest announcement about the hypersonic drone tests is “alarming in its ramifications for safety and airspace impacts on tens of millions of travelers who travel through Denver International each year, and on local general aviation operations.”

Finding these experimental rocket drone tests inappropriate for the Denver airspace and inconsistent with the FAA’s approval of the license application, the letter urged the administrator, “at a minimum,” that the FAA require “an environmental assessment of the safety, airspace, and community impacts” of the tests.

In addition to NBAA, the letter was signed by the Air Line Pilots Association International, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Airlines for America and the American Association of Airport Executives.

Read the full letter. (PDF)