The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association believes the time has passed for a dispassionate review of longstanding security-related flight restrictions and is calling on GA pilots to help make the case.
AOPA needs to hear from members about problems they've encountered trying to operate in the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or in any of the presidential-movement TFRs (temporary flight restrictions). "We will take these very real operational stories to the decision makers. We want them to feel our pain and respond," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Now with President Bush making several trips around the country each week, security personnel responsible for his safety are routinely asking for and getting 30-nm-radius TFRs that precede the President wherever he goes.
AOPA has developed an online form so pilots can submit their input.
During his trip to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on the Fourth of July to celebrate the centennial of flight, Bush said, "I wonder what Wilbur and Orville would have thought if they'd have seen that flying machine that I came in on today." AOPA is forced to wonder what the Wright brothers would have thought if they knew that 769 other flying machines were grounded or restricted because the President came to Dayton.
AOPA also plans to monitor and record the radio congestion caused by the ADIZ. The high volume of radio traffic not only puts an almost impossible burden on air traffic controllers and pilots, it creates safety problems of its own. "In fact," said Boyer, "there are many instances where controllers are too busy to handle the traffic load, and this creates a situation where the tracking of flights is compromised, not enhanced."
For months, the federal agencies charged with homeland security have stonewalled virtually all efforts by AOPA to find fixes for the horrendous operational problems plaguing the Washington, D.C., ADIZ. Now more of the country is beginning to experience the same restrictions as President Bush hits the campaign trail.
"It's time for someone in the government to step back and assess whether there's a real need for these huge flight restriction areas, or whether they're just 'feel-good' measures that only give the appearance of increased security," said Boyer. "AOPA has offered suggestions that would improve operations in the ADIZ while addressing security concerns but has been rebuffed by both the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)."
The rationale for implementing the ADIZ is no longer valid, according to Boyer, and given the reduced threat level, the ending of major hostilities in Iraq, and the phase-out of Operation Liberty Shield, it should be rescinded. In fact, in public statements, the TSA and the FAA emphasized that enhanced airspace control measures were put into place consistent with a heightened National Threat Level Orange. TSA Administrator Adm. James Loy was quoted in the TSA press release as saying, "We appreciate the cooperation of the general aviation community as we implement sound security measures and tighten our defenses during this period of heightened alert."
"General aviation pilots are every bit as loyal citizens as our ground-bound neighbors. Of course we're going to cooperate. But we're also going to help security officials understand the impact of their decisions," said Boyer.
AOPA is a 400,000-member-strong association dedicated to defending the interests of general aviation in America. The association is committed to ensuring the continued viability, growth, and development of aviation in the United States. Airspace access is a critical component of a vital and vibrant national transportation system.