AOPA President Phil Boyer gave an eye-opening presentation to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials yesterday, educating them on the operational problems the new Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) presents to general aviation pilots, and detailing the significant economic impacts that airspace restrictions have on GA.
"I think the government was startled to learn that within 55 nautical miles of Washington, D.C., there are some 270 landing facilities, including 33 public-use airports that are home to 95 businesses employing more than 800 people," said Boyer. "Those businesses contribute some $158 million a year to the economy, with a total economic impact of more than $453 million. Flight training alone accounts for over $12 million, and repair and maintenance adds another $11 million.
"And here's the kicker: If the government were to restrict GA operations in this area, the government would lose $186,300 per day in tax revenue."
Boyer's fact-filled PowerPoint presentation was part of a "stakeholders" meeting between general aviation organizations and TSA and the FAA. TSA had asked AOPA what the impact would be if the government were to restrict GA within 55 nm of the capital, as has been proposed by some security officials.
Boyer and AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula also explained some of the problems created by the just-imposed ADIZ in the Baltimore-Washington Class B airspace.
Of critical concern is the conflict between security and safety concerns. The notam requires pilots to be in constant contact with Potomac Tracon, which means they can't communicate on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF or unicom). That increases the risk of a midair collision at the nontowered airports within the ADIZ.
AOPA also questioned whether air traffic control had the staffing to handle the increased VFR traffic and if the flight service station system could handle the increased volume of VFR and IFR flight plans.
Boyer and Cebula explained that many of the airports within the ADIZ don't have remote communications outlets to permit pilots to talk to ATC on the ground. "Without these facilities, how can pilots request the required discrete transponder codes, and how can they open and close flight plans?" AOPA asked.
Boyer asked TSA for more such "listening sessions" and to form a "go team" that would include general aviation experts to address breaking security situations.