AOPA "kicked it up a notch" today as AOPA President Phil Boyer took general aviation pilots' concerns about airspace restrictions to the top man for aviation in the Department of Homeland Security.
Boyer and Senior Vice President Andy Cebula went deep inside the Homeland Security's fortress-like compound this morning to talk with Asa Hutchinson, the under secretary for Border and Transportation Security. And Boyer made it clear that airspace restrictions like the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or the proposed 30-nautical-mile " Presidential movement" aren't working.
Under Secretary Hutchinson opened the meeting by saying that Homeland Security's mission was to improve security, to operate in the most efficient manner, and to satisfy the customers.
"We can't judge on how you're doing on security," Boyer replied, "but on efficiency and customer satisfaction, you're not doing well—at least as far as pilots and air traffic controllers are concerned."
Boyer said the ADIZ was broken. Pilots and controllers, who should be considered "customers," were not happy. "The ADIZ is an operational disaster," Boyer said. "Aircraft are sitting on the ground, pilots are 'put on hold' for hours. Controllers are frustrated because they're trying to force the system to do something it was never designed to do."
He told Hutchinson that AOPA had suggested solutions for resolving some of the frustrations with the ADIZ more than a month ago, but the government still hasn't responded.
Hutchinson spoke about what might happen when the security level moves back up to orange.
Boyer responded by saying, "We should be talking about what happens when the security level drops to blue or green. Senior officials are saying the war with Iraq is over."
He reminded the security official that, following 9/11 and previous heightened security alerts, a 15-nm restricted area around Washington, D.C., was considered adequate. "Why do we need a huge ADIZ now?" Boyer asked.
Boyer also asked Hutchinson to "think through carefully" the impact that large TFRs around the President will have, "particularly on places the President visits frequently."
Finally, Boyer raised the issue of "who's in charge" on airspace restrictions. "The Secret Service, Department of Defense, FBI, FAA, TSA, state governors, and even local mayors are all trying to control airspace," Boyer said. "When it comes to restrictions for legitimate national security concerns, one agency of the federal government has to be the final authority."