AOPA tells Congress opening Reagan National only part of the job

November 11, 2009

AOPA tells Congress opening Reagan National only part of the job
Nation's capital remains out of reach for most GA pilots

Click for larger image
AOPA President Phil Boyer testifies at a
congressional hearing about eliminating
the Washington, D.C., ADIZ and reopening
area airports to transient GA traffic.
Click for larger image
Boyer used large posters to graphically
illustrate ADIZ impacts to Congress.
Click for larger image

Mar. 16, 2004 - AOPA President Phil Boyer told Congress Tuesday afternoon that after two and a half years of being shut out of the nation's capital, it's time to reopen the door to all of general aviation.

At a hearing on permitting GA flights into Reagan National Airport (held in the Signature Flight Support hangar), Boyer said that it is also time to rescind the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and once again permit GA pilots to access the national capital area.

"We support reopening Reagan National Airport to general aviation," Boyer told the House aviation subcommittee, "but most of our members are just trying to get closer to Reagan National so they can use one of the GA airports in the capital area!"

ADIZ an operational nightmare for both pilots and controllers

Boyer told the committee members that the air traffic control system was never designed to do the things the ADIZ is forcing pilots and air traffic controllers to do. He quoted the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, saying, "Simply put, the Washington ADIZ creates an unworkable situation for both pilots and controllers. The ATC system is being asked to perform a function for which it is not designed and for which it lacks the capacity. It creates confusion for both pilots and controllers. Proper resources have not been allocated to provide equipment and procedures to meet the objective, and ultimately there is no evidence to suggest that the intended goal is achieved."

Boyer drove home his point by playing a tape of a confused exchange between a pilot trying to operate in the ADIZ and a controller trying to explain why the pilot needed to be talking to someone else.

Washington, D.C., Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) remarked that she had been unaware of the strain the ADIZ placed on air traffic controllers and asked Transportation Security Administration acting Administrator Adm. David Stone (who also testified) what had been done to alleviate that strain. When Stone said he would have to report back to the committee, Del. Norton formally requested that subcommittee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) convene a future hearing on the ADIZ ATC issue.

Boyer also told the panel about the personal cost of the ADIZ, relating the story of a flight instructor who is facing a job loss because of the inflexible ADIZ rules. Approaching an airport within the ADIZ, the instructor's student mistakenly thought that an ATC clearance to change frequency also meant clearance to change from the discrete transponder code that is mandatory for operations within the ADIZ. The instructor did not notice the student had changed the transponder to 1200 and so was completely surprised when the FAA announced its intention to suspend the instructor's license for 30 days. The young CFI, who is already paying off thousands in student loans for an aviation degree, is now also faced with legal fees to defend against the suspension.

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) asked Boyer how many intentional violations of the ADIZ have been documented. None, replied Boyer, who added that the FAA has to assign a lawyer to deal with every unintentional violation. "It's like prosecuting the jaywalkers when the bank down the street's being robbed," Boyer told Boswell.

Original security justification for ADIZ no longer exists

The ADIZ was established during the run-up to hostilities with Iraq, at a time of heightened national threat level alert status. It provided an additional buffer, beyond the existing 15 nm "no-fly" flight-restricted zone (FRZ) around the nation's capital. Another ADIZ was established over New York City at approximately the same time, as was a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over downtown Chicago.

With the end of major military action in Iraq, the national threat level alert status was lowered, and the restrictions over New York City and Chicago were lifted. But not the Baltimore-Washington ADIZ. It remains in effect 11 months after the others were rescinded.

"Rescinding the ADIZ doesn't mean that the National Capitol Region is unprotected," Boyer said in his prepared testimony. "In fact, there would remain in place a Special Flight Rules Area that prohibits general aviation operations within a 15-mile radius of airspace around the nation's capitol. This 15-mile 'no-fly' zone has been in place since 9/11 and has proven to provide an appropriate level of airspace protection, without unnecessarily restricting general aviation commerce."

Boyer also reminded the aviation subcommittee members that the FAA had not yet fulfilled a requirement that they, the members themselves, had put into law. FAA is required to report to Congress on the continued need for the Baltimore-Washington ADIZ and the steps the agency had taken to mitigate operational problems. Reading from the bill itself, Boyer said, "If an ADIZ is in effect on the date of the enactment of this Act - by the way, the date was December 12, 2003 - the Administrator shall transmit an initial report not later than 30 days after such enactment.

"I ask the Committee, have you received such a report? I think not."

Chairman Mica, too, wanted to know when the committee would see the required report, asking Adm. Stone if he knew when it would be ready. At the end of the hearing, Mica indicated that if the report is not in the committee's hands soon, there may be a separate hearing called on the ADIZ.

"College Park Airport is our Reagan National and needs to be set free"

For decades before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the majority of GA pilots (flying single- and twin-piston-engine aircraft) with business in Washington landed at College Park Airport (CGS). With its proximity to Washington's Metro (subway system), College Park provided easy access without adding to congestion at Reagan National.

Since then, only pilots based at College Park, or at Potomac Airport or Washington Executive/Hyde Field, prior to the attacks and who pass extensive security checks are permitted to use the facilities. The restrictions have crippled all three airports.

"College Park has seen a 92-percent decrease in operations," said Boyer. "Two airport businesses have closed. A multi-decade flying club based on the airport has ceased operations. Gross revenue for the current year is down 54 percent from 2000. At Hyde Field, only 35 percent of the aircraft remain from pre-9/11 days. Potomac Airfield is down to 80 based aircraft, with job losses experienced by nearly every tenant at the airfield."

Besides Boyer and Stone, the panel testifying included James Bennett of the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority; James Coyne of the National Air Transportation Association; the National Business Aviation Association's Shelley Longmuir; Elizabeth Haskins, president and CEO of Signature Flight Services, the GA FBO at Reagan National; and Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

04-1-137