AOPA's petition to open up Washington, D.C.-area airports now on federal docket


Pilots invited to comment

June 1, 2003

After almost three months, the FAA Office of Rulemaking has formally registered AOPA's petition to allow transient traffic use of the "DC3" airports (College Park Airport, Potomac Airpark, and Washington Executive/Hyde Field) in Maryland, close to Washington, D.C. AOPA had filed the petition in October and has been pressing the FAA to put it on the docket ever since.

"Restoration of general aviation access to the nation's capital is one of the major post-9/11 airspace hurdles remaining," said Andrew V. Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "Pilots are encouraged to visit the federal government's rulemaking Web site and submit comments recommending that the FAA adopt AOPA's petition and restore general aviation access to Washington's airspace." (Go to http://www.regulations.gov and enter document # FAA-2002-13623-1.)

Under the current special flight rule SFAR 94 governing operations at those airports and within a 15-nm radius of the Washington Monument, only pilots who were based at those airports prior to September 11, 2001, and have undergone extensive background checks may operate from the "DC3" airports.

In its petition, AOPA is also asking that vetted pilots be permitted to conduct air traffic pattern work at all three airports.

"AOPA was recently successful in getting the FAA and TSA to issue a notam that allows for inter-airport operations by vetted pilots," said Cebula. "We continue to explore all available regulatory alternatives to push for implementing the two remaining recommendations contained in our petition."

The association's petition notes that although SFAR 94 contained language suggesting that additional operations may be permitted after a procedural validation period, no effort has been made to open the "DC3" to transient flight operations since the SFAR was finalized in February of last year. Also, despite the fact that general aviation has never been used in the conduct of terrorist activities, it is the only segment of the aviation community restricted by SFAR 94.

With the exception of security TFRs (in various areas around the country), general aviation operations are now permitted since the airspace shut down after 9/11. That is not the case in the Washington area, where SFAR 94 prohibits almost all general aviation operations.

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