AOPA is registering strong opposition to a Department of Defense request to increase by some nine-fold the size of restricted airspace surrounding the President.
In an April 9 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, AOPA President Phil Boyer said the DOD request to expand the so called "presidential movement" temporary flight restriction (TFR) area from a 10- to 30-nautical-mile radius around the President "does not appear to be in response to any specific credible threat, nor does it address any ongoing security concern posed by general aviation."
"Security officials, who have shown little interest in understanding the general aviation flight environment, are pushing for this increase (and in fact have been pushing for it for over a year) simply because they want it, without any justification or even support from the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration," Boyer told Secretary Ridge.
To illustrate the devastating impact the expanded TFR would have on general aviation and local economies, AOPA cited the example of the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, which is surrounded by the "P-40" prohibited area.
The association noted that at no time in its 61-year history has Camp David been subject to an airspace restriction of the proposed size, yet Camp David has been the site of numerous summits and meetings. Even during the heightened security alerts following the 9/11 attacks, a five-nautical-mile TFR was considered an appropriate amount of security. (Last year that was increased to 10 nm without explanation or justification.)
A 30-nm-diameter ring around Camp David would cover 11 public-use airports, including AOPA's home field of Frederick, Maryland, the second busiest airport in the state. It would also impact Hagerstown Regional Airport, the fifth busiest.
AOPA surveyed the 11 airports and determined that the businesses based on them would lose $236,124 per day due to the airspace restrictions. The airports employ some 244 people, are home to 842 based aircraft, and support some 456,000 aircraft operations per year.
"Expanding airspace restrictions over P-40 would have a devastating impact on general aviation operators, airports, and the local economy," Boyer said. "Even if limited operations were permitted, using the restrictive air defense identification zone (ADIZ) operational procedures (requirement for flight plan, discrete transponder code, and two-way communication), the impact would be severe.
"The FAA's air traffic system is unable to support these operational requirements, and as a result, general aviation is 'de facto' grounded," Boyer told Secretary Ridge.
Boyer argued that pursuing enforcement action against violations of the current TFRs would be the most important security step officials could take. Noting that AOPA continues to emphasize to pilots the importance of avoiding restricted airspace, Boyer pointed out that incursions into the current P-40 area have decreased significantly over time.
AOPA urged Secretary Ridge to "not support the DOD request because it is excessive and would unnecessarily restrict air commerce. The current 10-mile presidential movement TFR provides an appropriate level of protection, without unnecessarily infringing on general aviation's freedom of transit."
"I ask that you preserve the airspace around Camp David and other locations and limit the presidential movement TFRs to their current 10-nm-radius size," Boyer concluded in his letter to Secretary Ridge.
With nearly 400,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, dedicated to protecting and preserving the rights and interests of general aviation pilots. General aviation consists of all flight activities except military and scheduled passenger air carrier flights.