AOPA yesterday formally petitioned the FAA to effectively reopen airspace around Washington, D.C., to general aviation traffic. "Restoring GA access to the nation's capital is one of the last major post-9/11 airspace hurdles remaining," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president for government and technical affairs.
The AOPA petition calls for establishing a waiver process that would allow transient traffic to use the "DC3" airports (College Park Airport, Potomac Airpark, and Washington Executive/Hyde Field), all located in Maryland, very close to Washington, D.C.
Currently under the special flight rule ( SFAR 94) governing operations at those airports and within a 15-nm radius of the Washington Monument, only pilots who were based at those airports prior to September 11, 2001, and have undergone extensive background checks may operate from the "DC3" airports. And they are only allowed to make flights departing from the SFAR 94 area or returning to their home airports.
In its petition, AOPA is also asking that vetted pilots operating from any of the three airports be allowed to make flights to or from all three.
With the exception of random security TFRs, general aviation operations have largely returned to normal since the airspace shut down 12 months ago. That is not the case in the Washington area, where SFAR 94 prohibits almost all general aviation operations.
"It is clear that unless AOPA's recommended changes to SFAR 94 are adopted, the three impacted airports cannot survive," commented Cebula. "The restrictions currently preclude flight instruction, fuel sales, charters, or any other business endeavor that would provide economic justification for investment or growth."
The association's petition notes that although SFAR 94 contained language suggesting that additional operations may be permitted after a procedural validation period, no effort has been made to open the "DC3" to transient flight operations since the SFAR was finalized in February of this year. Also, in spite of the fact that general aviation has never been used in the conduct of terrorist activities, it is the only segment of the aviation community restricted by SFAR 94.
AOPA will continue working to reestablish the economic viability of these airports and restore general aviation access to the National Airspace System.