January 13, 2006
AOPA members got the chance to come face to face with representatives from six federal agencies to air their experiences and concerns about the hastily developed Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) during Thursday's public meetings.
More than 300 local pilots - mostly AOPA members - attended the first of two public hearings in Columbia, Maryland, which AOPA had worked hard to create. Over the course of six hours, more than 30 speakers provided the government with a clear message about the ADIZ's inadequacies through personal accounts of operational nightmares, safety hazards, and negative economic impacts.
"Our members are the real asset, and I am proud of the way they are stepping up to present their personal, passionate, well-researched comments against a permanent Washington, D.C., ADIZ," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And these public meetings allow the government to hear that - loud and clear - directly from the members, the pilots and aircraft owners who have to struggle with these unworkable regulations every day."
And while the 11-member panel composed of representatives from the FAA, Transportation Security Administration, Homeland Security, Defense Department, Customs and Border Protection, and the Secret Service seemed unresponsive, the FAA assured AOPA that the agency is listening.
"We appreciate all the thought that people have put into their comments - the almost 20,000 submissions to the docket and live testimony yesterday," said an FAA spokeswoman. "We appreciate the time they took to come to the public meetings to offer their recommendations, alternate ideas, and suggestions of how to protect the airspace around the Capital Region but still allow the aviation community to thrive. We will look at all the comments and consider the many creative recommendations we have."
One speaker compared the destructive capability of a Boeing 767 and Cessna 172: It would take about 600 Cessna 172s to pose the same amount of threat as a single 767.
Panel members, some of whom are pilots and all of whose work is deeply involved in aviation, heard how the hasty requirements that were established during one weekend in 2003 are virtually impossible to follow flawlessly - by pilots and controllers alike. An instructor from the Naval academy recounted his two-year ordeal with the FAA as a result of a 1.5-mile incursion into the ADIZ that ultimately resulted in a 15-day suspension of his pilot certificate.
Eric Flamino, the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer at Tipton Airport in the heart of the ADIZ, said the restrictive airspace is hurting pilot safety because they aren't flying enough to keep their skills sharp. For example, few regularly practice pattern work at the airport now.
When pilots don't fly as much, their aircraft are left sitting. Richard Kries, the president of Skybird Aviation, said that he has seen a 57-percent decrease in his business since 9/11. But of what maintenance business he does have, the number of aircraft that have only 10 to 15 hours between annuals is increasing. That means, among many issues, an increase in potential engine problems: Moisture trapped in the engines can cause corrosion of the pistons and cylinders.
"Our members gave articulate, well-reasoned arguments against the ADIZ that established credibility and set the bar for these meetings. They all questioned the logic of imposing the harshest penalties on the ones who pose the least amount of threat," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "And at next Wednesday's meeting in Dulles, Virginia, AOPA President Phil Boyer will pick up where they left off."
January 13, 2006
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