Secretary of Homeland Security Gov. Tom Ridge announced this afternoon that the government has raised the terrorist threat level from "elevated" to "high" (orange level). Ridge cited intelligence information from credible sources of imminent terrorist attempts to attack at levels "rivaling or exceeding" the September 11 attacks. He noted that al Qaeda continues to contemplate using aircraft as weapons.
Pilots in and near Washington, D.C., are advised that as a result of increased security concerns, the FAA has issued several notams restricting flight in the Washington metropolitan area.
The first of the security-related flight restrictions took effect immediately. Others take effect at 11 p.m. local time tonight (Sunday, December 21), and others become effective early Monday morning.
Effective immediately, six categories of waivers for operating in the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) are suspended. Waivers with the three-letter authorization codes PIC, CSO, CRP, ADO, POA, or SVY are suspended until further notice (notam 3/2033 [#2]).
Beginning at 11 p.m. Eastern time tonight (Sunday, December 21), all waivers nationwide for operating over major sporting events are suspended (notam 3/2035 [#2]).
Beginning at 6 a.m. local time on Monday, December 22, the following restrictions will go into effect:
"In a teleconference with top FAA and TSA security officials, AOPA expressed concern about the last-minute notice of these restrictions," said AOPA Senior Vice President Andy Cebula. "We have told officials that pilots may not get the word with enough lead time to prevent unintentional incursions."
Any revisions to the above notams will be posted on AOPA Online as soon as possible after they are issued. Because TFR airspace frequently changes, AOPA strongly encourages pilots to obtain a briefing and CHECK NOTAMS before every flight. TFR violators will be intercepted and forced to land.
Pilots who have signed up for AOPA's ePilot newsletter will receive special e-mail alerts of security notams affecting flight in their area.
Secretary Ridge asked all Americans to be vigilant and report suspicious activities and vehicles to law enforcement. Pilots in particular are asked to watch for suspicious activities at their airports and report them to AOPA's Airport Watch—866/GA-SECURE.