The Honorable Asa Hutchinson
Undersecretary for Border, Transportation Security
Department of Homeland Security
3801 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20528
Dear Under Secretary Hutchinson:
The almost 400,0000 members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) were very encouraged by the news today that the federal government has lowered the National Threat Level Alert status to Yellow and will be "standing down" Operation Liberty Shield. Nearly 65,000 AOPA members base their airplanes and/or fly in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas. As Americans concerned with this nation's security, these pilots have tolerated an ill-conceived operational plan during the period of heightened alert. Now, with the reduction in the nation's threat condition, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) requests the immediate suspension of the air defense identification zones (ADIZs) around Washington, D.C., and New York City.
Fortuitously, you and I have a scheduled meeting next Monday morning (April 21), and this request will be the most important discussion point. Over the past several days, I have been conducting meetings with our members in the New York City area, and they have made it clear that these restricted flying areas are an operational disaster. Some 91 percent of the more than 400 pilots attending a meeting held in Teterboro, New Jersey, said the New York ADIZ had adversely impacted their flying.
In public statements, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) emphasized that enhanced airspace control measures were put into place consistent with a heightened National Threat Level Orange. TSA Administrator James Loy was quoted in the TSA press release as saying, "We appreciate the cooperation of the general aviation community as we implement sound security measures and tighten our defenses during this period of heightened alert."
AOPA's members are now not just asking, but demanding with the reduced threat level, that the ADIZ areas be rescinded. We want to support your efforts on national security and realize this may mean temporary restrictions, however, elevated threat conditions should not be an excuse to impose airspace restrictions that are not eliminated after the threat conditions are lowered. Will these restrictions be like taxes, once imposed as a temporary measure, they never go away? What is so different now than during almost all of last year when there was no ADIZ, and the nation was challenging the Middle East with war?
The TSA, FAA, and other agencies created the ADIZ for Washington, D.C., and New York City in response to heightened terrorism threat levels. This encompasses 30 nautical miles around Kennedy, La Guardia, and Newark airports and impacts 27 public-use landing facilities in New York. The Washington ADIZ covers some 23,000 square miles around Baltimore, Washington, and Dulles International airports and impacts some 23 public-use facilities. General aviation pilots in the ADIZ must maintain two-way radio communications, use a transponder and discrete beacon code, file IFR/VFR flight plans, and follow standard air traffic procedures before entering the ADIZ. This has overloaded the ATC system, causing extreme difficulties for pilots in gaining access to the airspace.
AOPA has been flooded with complaints from pilots who have been subject to lengthy delays and even denied service. For example, a pilot in the Washington, D.C., area reported waiting 55 minutes on the ground for approval of a flight plan, 30 minutes to get through on the telephone to the FAA flight service station, and another 20 minutes for a briefer to actually pick up the phone. All told, this pilot invested more than 1 hour and 45 minutes to file the required ADIZ flight plan, contact ATC, receive a transponder code, and obtain clearance into the ADIZ—an amount of time equal to the total flight time for the planned trip! An AOPA member in New York waited "more than two hours on the ground after engine startup" to receive clearance into the New York City ADIZ—for a flight that was to take less than one hour en route! These are but two of the many horror stories we have heard that includes countless reports of extreme delays, canceled flights, terminated flight lessons, and lost business at general aviation airports.
Based on real-world experiences by pilots, the ADIZ is not working. It is clear that the air traffic control system does not have the resources in place to effectively manage, for extended periods of time, the volume of general aviation traffic requiring access. This system was not designed to accommodate visual flight rule traffic loads; rather it was put in place to separate aircraft on instrument flight plans, mainly commercial air carriers. Early in the implementation of the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, AOPA spent considerable time and resources developing a comprehensive plan on how to make it operationally more efficient, while retaining the perceived or real security the ADIZ represented. Those recommendations were provided to the TSA and the FAA on March 12 but have never been answered.
On behalf of the nearly 400,000 members of AOPA, under this reduced threat level, I urge you to rescind the ADIZ restrictions immediately.
Cc: Blakey, Loy, Shkor
April 16, 2003