Ms. Marion Blakey
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Blakey,
Now that we are beyond numerous changes from the heat of the battle of 9/11, I am writing to you regarding the procedures, or lack thereof, used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) in closing College Park Airport and Potomac Airfield, in Maryland, on the days surrounding the first anniversary of September 11th. On Tuesday, September 10, Admiral Loy of the TSA took the positive initiative to set up a conference call with industry officials to outline the heightened state of security announced by the White House. Included in his remarks to those of us who participated, and validated by me personally as a question to TSA's chief, we were told the two GA airports close to the nation's capital would indeed be closed. It was certainly anticipated that official notification of these closures would be forthcoming.
It was disappointing that the FAA waited to contact AOPA until Tuesday evening, much later than my call with the TSA, to inform us that the airports would be closed through September 12. However, most disturbing was the FAA telling us that that no notice to airmen (notam) would be issued. Of even greater concern is that a decision was made to extend the closure through Friday the 13th, but again, no attempt was made to notify pilots. The closure extension notice came from the FAA to the two affected airport managers, through last-minute phone calls.
AOPA hopes that this chain of events is not an indication of what can be expected in the future from the FAA and TSA. The lack of formal notification to pilots through the notam system is unacceptable. Notams provide the only official notification to pilots regarding last-minute changes to the National Airspace System (NAS). Further, had pilots consulted the published notams, they would have found that Notam 2/8367 clearly stating that the airspace around Washington was closed only during the time of the Pentagon ceremony (8:30 to 11:00 local time).
The association and its members want to abide by the ever-changing airspace and airport restrictions in order to assist the FAA and TSA in contributing to homeland security. But issuing flight restrictions without communicating those restrictions to the pilot community through the notam system—the one centralized place where pilots should be able to find them—only serves to create violations of the restrictions.
For the safety and security of all, we would appreciate your effort to ensure that this type of situation does not reoccur.
Cc: Admiral James Loy—Transportation Security Administration
September 25, 2002