There is hope for pilots at the three Maryland airports that still remain closed to general aviation operations. In a conference call this afternoon, the FAA briefed the airport owners and operators, along with AOPA and other industry representatives, on progress toward a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) that would permit operations at College Park (CGS), Potomac Airfield (VKX), and Washington Executive/Hyde Field (W32) airports near Washington, D.C. These airports have remained closed since September 11, and AOPA has continued to urge the FAA and homeland security officials to restore operations since then.
"I've heard personally from members how important it is to reopen these airports, located so close to the nation's capital and in AOPA's backyard," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The plan that the FAA and the airport operators are crafting is a good first solution to a very difficult security situation."
The FAA has made significant progress in negotiations with security and military officials, who have agreed to the concept of reopening the airports with strict security controls and specific flight rules. These procedures are now being drafted into a SFAR, which will ultimately have to be approved by the Secret Service. The SFAR may be ready within a few weeks, pending security approval.
The plan would first apply only to aircraft based at the three airports prior to September 11.
Pilots based at these airports would first have to clear a background and security check. Once approved to operate from one of three airports, each flight would have to be on a specially verified flight plan (IFR or VFR) and follow prescribed routes in and out of the flight restriction area surrounding Washington, D.C. Special procedures would be in place to ensure the identity of the pilot operating the aircraft.
"When this SFAR is issued, it will offer some relief for pilots and business owners who have been so severely affected for four long months," said Boyer. "While not yet the ideal solution, this resumption of limited operations is the first step toward rebuilding the general aviation industry at these valuable airports. AOPA will continue to push for full restoration of all operations."