The air defense identification zone (ADIZ) surrounding Washington, D.C., has created operational nightmares for pilots and air traffic controllers alike. The problem became worse than ever when the FAA issued a notam penalizing GA pilots after communication breakdowns among federal agencies led to the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol last month. Now Congress is holding a hearing to find out what happened.
"It's the government's responsibility to fix its communication failures and stop punishing GA for a problem that has nothing to do with aviation security or pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "General aviation operations are safe and secure and should not be singled out because the government botched its own ADIZ procedures."
At tomorrow's hearing FAA and Transportation Security Administration officials will testify before the House aviation subcommittee about the disconnect that created panic when a King Air carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to Ronald Reagan's funeral suffered a transponder failure. Although the flight crew complied with its clearance and was talking to air traffic controllers, the FAA and security officials failed to talk to each other about what was going on. Intercept aircraft were scrambled, and the U.S. Capitol was evacuated.
Even though the flight crew was not to blame, GA pilots have been singled out for further operational restrictions. An FAA notam requires them to immediately exit the ADIZ in the event of a transponder failure. The notam does not apply to airliners.
"Once again, GA has been made the scapegoat," said Boyer. "The problem is with the bureaucracy that prevents the FAA and the security agencies from talking to each other despite the fact that they built a $20 million command facility designed specifically to coordinate the efforts of agencies protecting the airspace around the nation's capital."
July 7, 2004