AOPA President Phil Boyer this afternoon asked Congress to help free the GA 41,000, the aircraft currently trapped in 30 enhanced Class B airspace areas and the two no-fly zones around Washington, D.C., and New York. Testifying before the House aviation subcommittee, Boyer said, "In 28 of those Class B areas, no VFR flying is allowed, and 85 percent of general aviation pilots can only fly VFR. Yet in those 28 cities, dual flight instruction is allowed. So a pilot like Mr. Hayes (a member of the aviation subcommittee from North Carolina) can't fly out of Charlotte. That doesn't make sense. And in New York and Washington, general aviation is shut down completely. Montgomery County Airport, for example, was the third busiest airport in Maryland, contributing $15 million a year to the economy, and it's stopped dead in its tracks." [Listen to audio of AOPA President Phil Boyer's testimony ( 9.3 MB WAV file | 1 MB RealAudio file; a broadband connection is recommended).]
Boyer told Congress that other important aviation business, such as crop dusting, news and traffic reporting, aerial photography and survey, and pipeline patrols, remain grounded. He argued for economic relief for all small aviation businesses that have been hurt. "This has been like a natural disaster for these businesses. They haven't lost buildings, but the airspace has been taken away."
He noted that in this national tragedy, it was airline security that was breached and airline transport category equipment used as weapons. However, general aviation was the last allowed to return to the sky, and not all GA is yet flying. "We're not talking about big airplanes," Boyer told Congress. "We're talking about four-place, single-engine aircraft that are on average 30 years old, cost the same as a car, and have the same weight and kinetic energy of a car."
Boyer praised the FAA, saying that the agency was doing a "wonderful job in trying to get airplanes back in the air," but noting that the agency had to answer to a higher authority—the National Security Council. "Part of the problem in getting back in the air is not being told what the threats are. If we just knew what some of the threats were, we could offer creative solutions on how to safely move aircraft."
Aviation subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) promised that his committee would try to get some answers from the NSC and the Department of Defense.
"We have to walk a fine line and balance between getting our members back in the air with national security concerns," Boyer said. "But please forgive me if I become zealous in advocating a return of flying privileges for all of general aviation."