AOPA President Boyer (right) meets with Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) to reinforce general aviation's opposition to his proposed New York "no-fly" zone. Boyer also briefed the congressman on AOPA's Airport Watch security program.
AOPA President Phil Boyer yesterday met personally with New Jersey Representative Steve Rothman to explain the truth about general aviation and to register again opposition to the congressman's proposal to place a 15-nautical-mile "no fly" zone for GA aircraft around New York City.
Rothman has asked members of Congress to support his plan, saying, "It is unacceptable that New York City has not been given the same protections from general aviation aircraft that Washington, D.C., has received." Rothman's no-fly zone would include Teterboro Airport, one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation.
As recently as last Thursday, Rothman has claimed that general aviation aircraft could "potentially cause a tragedy greater than the one we had on September 11" if they were filled with chemical or biological agents.
But in his conversation with Boyer, the congressman said his primary issue was to "preserve the present character" of Teterboro as an exclusively general aviation airport. Both Rothman and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which owns Teterboro) are concerned about charter carrier Indigo Airlines, which is offering four flights a day from Teterboro to Chicago's Midway Airport without the same security controls as a regularly scheduled passenger airline.
Boyer, who met with Rothman (a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee) in his Hackensack, New Jersey, office, said he was there representing the 10,000 AOPA members in New Jersey and nearly 400,000 AOPA members nationwide. He explained who general aviation pilots are and the very limited threat that GA aircraft present.
He asked Rothman to explain the real problem he was trying to solve with his draconian "no fly" zone. The congressman indicated he wanted to ensure that passenger-carrying airlines did not use Teterboro, that there were other airports in the New York/New Jersey system that were better suited to airline service.
Rothman told Boyer, "I want to preserve the present character of the airport" as an all-GA operation. Boyer agreed that that was essential.
But Boyer also explained that the non-discrimination clauses in FAA airport grants prohibited placing limitations on the kind of operations using an airport. In most cases, those clauses ensure that general aviation aircraft also have access to large air carrier airports, but those protections also worked in favor of airline operations as well.
Boyer pledged to work with Rep. Rothman by providing examples of how this issue had been fairly resolved in other communities.
But he reiterated that AOPA and general aviation pilots would continue to oppose a New York no-fly zone as unnecessary and discriminatory.