Scores of AOPA members responded when AOPA asked for horror stories of trying to operate in presidential TFRs (temporary flight restrictions) or the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The association is using the anecdotal evidence as part of a stepped-up campaign to convince government officials that the ADIZ and the oversized presidential TFRs are causing serious problems.
AOPA also made good on its commitment to monitor the radio congestion caused by the ADIZ. AOPA staff spent time on Monday reviewing the air traffic control audiotapes from the busy weekend and found numerous examples of the operational problems the ADIZ creates.
"There were more than 2,000 VFR operations in the ADIZ each day this past weekend," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And it's clear from listening to the tapes that the system is not able to handle the volume."
At one point, at least half a dozen VFR training flights operating to the west of the ADIZ called within a couple of minutes of each other to return to Manassas Regional Airport. Potomac Approach controllers refused their requests, concentrating—correctly—on inbound IFR traffic. But that turned Casanova VOR into a beehive, as at least six nervous VFR pilots orbited the facility in reduced visibility. ADIZ procedures conflicted with controllers' regulatory duties and created a significant operational safety risk.
Once again, AOPA received numerous complaints about delays as controllers searched for flight plans they had not received or had circling pilots land outside the ADIZ to contact the Leesburg Flight Service Station when controllers could not find a flight plan on file.
AOPA also received multiple reports of pilots calling on a landline to receive a beacon code and not being able to get through.
On several occasions, confused pilots either transmitted on the wrong frequency or were handed off to the wrong controller.
And there was another incidence this weekend of a pilot transitioning the area using GPS to skirt the ADIZ but being met on the ground by security personnel anyway. It's a situation that has repeated itself several times since the ADIZ was established, due in part to discrepancies between printed charts, GPS databases, and FAA radar screen map overlays.
"It's clear that instead of enhancing security, the ADIZ creates confusion and results in innocent pilots unintentionally violating the zone," said Boyer.
According to Potomac Tracon, 17 pilots violated the ADIZ over the weekend. While it is a pilot's responsibility to remain clear of the ADIZ, it is evident from monitoring the transmissions that frequency congestion, conflicting guidance, and confusion contribute to many of resulting violations.
"Controllers are making a valiant effort to work the traffic but are hamstrung by the way the ADIZ procedures have been cobbled together," said Boyer.
AOPA has spoken with controllers at Potomac Approach, and they have expressed the same frustration and sense of powerlessness that pilots have expressed regarding the ADIZ. One controller even commented that prior to the ADIZ, Washington, D.C.'s no-fly zone was the "least violated" in the country. The ADIZ has changed that: There have been more than 300 violations since its inception.
"Pilots have had enough," said Boyer. "For months federal agencies have hidden behind the veil of non-specific security 'threats' as a rationale to retain the draconian Baltimore-Washington ADIZ. They have cited these same 'threats' in expanding the standard presidential-movement TFR from a 5-mile radius to 30 miles.
"We deserve fair and equitable access to airspace, and we're not getting it with the ADIZ. It's time to hold the government accountable for its actions and call for the elimination of the ADIZ."