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Powerful Maryland congressional delegation weighs in on 'DC-3'Powerful Maryland congressional delegation weighs in on 'DC-3'

Maryland's "DC-3 airports"—three Washington, D.C., airports severely constrained for alleged security reasons—recently received major boosts from their congressional delegation. The Maryland delegation in the House, led by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, wrote to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, urging him to consider AOPA's petition to restore normal operations.

AOPA filed the petition with the FAA on October 18, 2002, requesting that College Park, Potomac, and Hyde Field be reopened to transient traffic or, at minimum, be permitted increased operations. At present, a mere 360 pilots are able to fly into the three airports combined, a fraction of the annual 110,000 operations enjoyed by the airports prior to the airspace closure in September 2001.

The Maryland delegation in both chambers of Congress have been working with AOPA to restore operations. At a recent Budget Committee hearing on February 13, dean of the delegation, Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), fiercely questioned DOT Under Secretary Michael Jackson on Jackson's acknowledgment that "flying in and out of these locations [is] more burdensome...." "More burdensome!" Sarbanes rejoined. "It is in effect putting them out of business. Look, if you are going to treat them as acceptable collateral damage in the fight against terrorism, it seems to me that you ought to undertake some program of recompensing them...they have had so many restrictions imposed upon them that they have in effect been closed for business."

Sarbanes and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, have been working together in the Senate to draw attention to the plight of the "DC-3" airports as well as the other Maryland airports, all of which have borne the brunt of the airspace closures imposed since 9/11. Subsequent to the Budget Committee hearing, Sen. Sarbanes wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Ridge questioning him on DHS's intent to compensate the airports and the FBOs on their loss in revenues.

In the House delegation's letter, Maryland's eight members state: "In addition to the plight of these three airports with continued operating restrictions, we would remind you of the ongoing economic hardships suffered by the other small, general aviation airports in Maryland...."

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