AOPA fights so that Cleveland air show can go on

August 30, 2004

AOPA fights so that Cleveland air show can go on

In the list of threats to national security, would you include a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet, an Ohio Air National Guard C-130 Hercules, and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team?

Those are some of the performers scheduled for this Friday's opening of the Cleveland National Air Show. But believe it or not, the FAA and the TSA say the law requires them to prohibit those air-show performances. Public Law 108-7 prohibits air operations within three miles and 3,000 feet altitude of a Major League Baseball game. The Cleveland Indians are playing that Friday night in Jacobs Field, about two miles from Burke Lakefront Airport. Because of that, the FAA and TSA say they can't let the show go on.

"Ridiculous," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And we're using our extensive relationships with these agencies and with Congress to try to bring some common sense to this situation."

Air show organizer Bob Rutherford made a personal appeal for help to Boyer on Sunday. But AOPA staff had already started to try to solve the problem last week after members alerted AOPA to news stories about the possible cancellation of the air show.

"It's hard to believe that terrorists could be masquerading as nationally known air-show performers or could be wearing the uniform of our military services," said Boyer.

AOPA's Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula talked with top officials at both agencies last week and again today. They continue to wrestle with the issue.

So AOPA has also gone to the people who wrote the law.

"We don't believe it was the intent of Congress to prohibit a well-established and well-regulated air show," said Cebula. "So we've asked key members of Congress to weigh in with TSA and FAA and push them to allow the air show to go on." The air show is a 40-year tradition in Cleveland.

AOPA's interpretation of the law is that the Department of Homeland Security (TSA's parent agency) and the FAA do have the latitude to grant the Cleveland Air Show a waiver for Friday night's performance. Public Law 108-7, Section 352 permits waivers to the "blanket" sporting event TFR, "as authorized by air traffic control for operational or safety purposes."

And the final ironic note: The Cleveland Browns are also playing next Friday. Their National Football League stadium is located less than one mile away from Burke Lakefront Airport. But the government has determined that Public Law 108-7 doesn't apply. It's only an exhibition game.

August 30, 2004