AOPA's efforts to rein in security officials' desire for vast amounts of restricted airspace around the President whenever he leaves Washington, D.C., are gaining support. The association has taken strong exception to the current practice of excluding virtually all general aviation traffic from presidential movement temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). Now the members of Maryland's congressional delegation are taking an equally strong stand.
"The people responsible for the president's security already demand and get huge restrictions when the president is at his Texas ranch or his father's home in Maine—moves that AOPA continues to fight against," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Now they want to do the same wherever he goes."
It is important that AOPA explain to members of Congress what's at stake for their constituents when a TFR is created in their home state or district. One case in point is in AOPA's own backyard, at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. Currently, when the President is at Camp David, the prohibited area P-40 that protects the area to a 10-nm radius. But security officials have proposed making it a 30-nm radius.
Four members of Maryland's congressional delegation, Sens. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), have written letters to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge questioning the proposal.
"At no time in its 61-year history has Camp David been subject to an airspace restriction of this magnitude," wrote Bartlett and Cardin, while Sarbanes and Mikulski said in their letter that Maryland airports are already at a disadvantage under the current restrictions. "We have already seen the hardships endured by the general aviation operators and airports in the state of Maryland as a result of the current restrictions," they said.
The proposed TFR area would stretch from Pennsylvania to Virginia and West Virginia, affecting operations at about a dozen airports, and would leave a corridor less than 10-nm wide between the Camp David restricted airspace and the 15-nm-radius no-fly zone around Washington, D.C. And access to even that narrow gap would be restricted, because it falls entirely within the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
"Without a specific and credible threat, disruptions to nation's aviation commerce should be kept to a minimum," said Boyer. "While we recognize the need to protect the President, AOPA will continue to fight to make the restriction fit the threat."