In a letter to TSA Under Secretary John Magaw, AOPA urged the lifting of restrictions on transient flight operations and revising the requirements for based aircraft at College Park Airport, Potomac Airfield, and Washington Executive/Hyde Field in Maryland. Closed since the September 11th terrorist attack, limited operations at these three airports resumed in February under Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 94. SFAR 94 places significant restrictions on based pilots and prohibits transient operations altogether, economically devastating the businesses based at these airports.
In the letter to Magaw, AOPA points out that SFAR 94 contains a provision that states, "...after an initial procedural validation period, the FAA may authorize operations to or from an affected airport by persons operating an aircraft not based at the airport." Given that over 60 days have passed since the issuance of SFAR 94, AOPA now feels it's time for TSA and the FAA to review existing policy and allow expanded operations.
There are no credible threats that justify the current restrictions, and GA aircraft do not pose a security threat.
"Because the longest runway at these three airports is 3,000 feet, large, heavy jet aircraft cannot fly into or depart from these facilities. The largest GA aircraft that could operate from these locations is a light twin airplane weighing less than 6,000 pounds," stated Andy Cebula, AOPA's senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "With appropriate control mechanisms, transient operations should be permitted." These requirements could include a mandate to file a VFR or IFR flight plan while maintaining ATC contact and avoiding departure routes toward the nation's capital.
Prior to the airspace closure, these three airports hosted over 110,000 operations annually and were home to nearly 400 based aircraft. That number now stands fewer than 150. College Park, the nation's oldest continuously operating airport, is especially hard hit, having been reduced to a single full-time employee and fewer than 40 based aircraft.
AOPA continues to work toward a solution that will provide relief by making these important resources available to the entire general aviation community.