AOPA President Phil Boyer today sent a strongly worded letter to the Homeland Security Department (HSD), requesting the immediate suspension of the air defense identification zones (ADIZs) around Washington, D.C., and New York City. Boyer fired off the letter within hours after the government reduced the national threat level to yellow, or "elevated."
"AOPA's members are now not just asking, but demanding, that with the reduced threat level, the ADIZ areas be rescinded," Boyer wrote in his letter to HSD Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson.
Boyer noted that he has been holding face-to-face Pilot Town Meetings with pilots in the New York City area. "They have made it clear that these restricted flying areas are an operational disaster," he said in the letter.
"Nearly 65,000 AOPA members base their airplanes and/or fly in the New York and Washington, D.C., areas," he said. "As Americans concerned with this nation's security, these pilots have tolerated an ill-conceived operational plan during the period of heightened alert.... 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?"
Boyer noted that the restrictions have placed undue burdens not only on pilots, but on air traffic controllers as well, as ATC struggles to deal with a vastly increased workload.
"AOPA has been flooded with complaints from pilots who have been subject to lengthy delays and even denied service," Boyer wrote. Typical of the problems, one Washington, D.C.-area pilot reported spending almost two hours to file the required ADIZ flight plan, contact ATC, receive a transponder code, and obtain a clearance into the ADIZ—more time than the trip itself!
"An AOPA member in New York waited 'more than two hours on the ground after engine start-up' to receive clearance into the New York City ADIZ...for a flight that was to take less than one hour en route!" Boyer wrote. "These are but two examples. AOPA has heard countless reports of extreme delays, canceled flights, terminated flight lessons, and lost business at general aviation airports."
Boyer concluded, "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.
"On behalf of the nearly 400,000 members of AOPA, under this reduced threat level, I urge you to rescind the ADIZ restrictions immediately."