A Baltimore-area pilot and two passengers were injured Sunday after they were forced to wait so long for clearance into the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that they ran out of fuel.
"Fuel management is the pilot's responsibility," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But having said that, AOPA has repeatedly warned the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration that the operational gridlock caused by the ADIZ procedures would result in an accident, and now it appears that this has happened."
AOPA has interviewed the owner of the accident aircraft and will file a Freedom of Information Act request for the ATC and FSS audiotapes. AOPA will review the information to determine where the FAA system failed and redouble efforts to fix the problems.
According to the pilot, Dale Roger, in an interview he gave to the Baltimore Sun newspaper, he circled outside the ADIZ for about an hour while air traffic controllers tried to locate his flight plan. All aircraft operating inside the ADIZ are required to have an active VFR or IFR flight plan.
Roger told the newspaper he had a flight plan on file and active. A spokesperson for the FAA says a preliminary investigation showed none of the flight service stations that cover the route of Roger's flight had a record of a flight plan being filed.
In March, AOPA submitted recommendations on how the FAA could revise the procedures to make them workable while still maintaining security. These procedures would include established ingress and egress routes and airport-specific transponder codes. Despite heavy lobbying by AOPA with homeland security officials and the FAA, these procedures have not been implemented, with the exception of eliminating the flight plan requirement for closed traffic pattern operations at two towered airports using a single transponder code.
On June 9, AOPA received responses from the FAA and TSA denying the request for ingress and egress routes and stating that the other recommendations are still under review.
"This response is not acceptable," said Boyer. "As the accident clearly demonstrates, there is a serious safety-of-flight issue that is being ignored."