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AOPA testimony regarding Opening Reagan National Airport to General AviationAOPA testimony regarding Opening Reagan National Airport to General Aviation

Statement of Phil Boyer


Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association

before the


The Honorable John L. Mica, Chairman
The Honorable Peter A. DeFazio, Ranking Member


Opening Reagan National Airport to General Aviation

March 16, 2004

Good afternoon, my name is Phil Boyer, and I am President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. AOPA represents over 400,000 pilots and airplane owners from across the country. Our objective as an association is to promote the interests of those who contribute to our economy by utilizing general aviation aircraft to fulfill their business and personal transportation needs. More than half of all pilots in the United States are members of AOPA, making it the world's largest pilot organization.

I would first like to thank the Chairman for holding this hearing today. This hearing provides an excellent opportunity to review the security enhancements that have been made and to work towards fully restoring general aviation access to all airports.

Any discussion involving the opening of the Washington, DC's National Airport to general aviation should also include fully reopening the three other local general aviation airports in the DC area. An important step for many AOPA members is rescinding the Air Defense Identification Zone.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001, scarred the nation in many ways. However, we are a nation filled with the resolve to heal our wounds, move forward, and continue to be a beacon of freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, one of the scars that has yet to heal is the health of general aviation around the nation's capital.

Immediately following the September 11 attacks, all airspace was restricted and planes were grounded from coast to coast. Slowly but surely, those restrictions were lifted, new security measures were developed, and aviation operations began to return to what has been called the "new normal" way of operating.

These new security measures include extensive background checks on pilots by the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, new restrictions were put in place on foreign pilots and non-U.S. citizens seeking flight training. With these new security requirements in place, general aviation across the country began to recover (see attachment for complete list of federal aviation industry actions on general aviation security).

However, for those general aviation pilots in the Washington, D.C., metro area, things have not returned to normal, and even with greatly improved security procedures, several facilities, including Ronald Reagan National Airport and the airspace in the National Capitol Area, have essentially been closed or access limited.


Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the FAA established a 15-mile-radius no-fly zone that extends from ground level to 18,000 feet around Washington, D.C., drastically limiting operations at College Park and Potomac airports, as well as Hyde Field in Maryland. No general aviation aircraft may operate to or from these airports, referred to as the "DC-3," unless the aircraft was based at the airport prior to 9/11 AND the pilot has undergone FBI fingerprinting and criminal history record check. This means that all three general aviation airports have been closed to all but the original 300 based aircraft since 9/11.

This was deemed to be sufficient from September 11, 2001, until February 2003. This was due in part to the large Washington, D.C., Class B airspace area over the Capitol region that requires all aircraft contact air traffic and obtain a clearance to enter the airspace. Additionally, all aircraft operating in the Class B airspace must remain under positive ATC control.

AOPA contends that this Class B airspace provides a positive identification area that, when combined with the SFAR no-fly zone, gives Washington, D.C., a significant amount of airspace protection.

However, in early February 2003, the general aviation community was told by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that a Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) would be established as a temporary security measure in response to an increase to the National Threat Level Alert Status and the pending hostilities in Iraq.

The ADIZ restricts general aviation access to airspace under 18,000 feet in roughly a 15- to 38-mile radius around Washington, D.C., and extends security measures outside of the preexisting 15-mile no-fly zone around Washington. The ADIZ and preexisting no-fly zone covers 19 public-use airports, over 10,000 pilots, and 2,655 aircraft, accounting for more than 1 million operations per year.

To fly in the ADIZ, all general aviation aircraft must comply with operational procedures similar to those designed for instrument flying. Specifically, pilots must file either an ADIZ flight plan or an instrument flight plan, maintain two-way radio communication, use a transponder with an assigned discrete beacon code, and follow standard air traffic procedures before entering the ADIZ. These requirements have overloaded the Washington-area ATC system, and pilots continue to experience extreme difficulties in gaining access to the 19 public-use airports in the ADIZ.

The air traffic system was not designed to support the increased workload caused by imposing these operational requirements, and the FAA does not have the resources in place to effectively manage, for extended periods of time, the volume of general aviation traffic requiring access.

In the months following the ADIZ implementation, the federal government subsequently decreased the National Threat Level Alert Status to Yellow, and the President declared an end to the major fighting in Iraq. The federal government has taken steps to eliminate all the heightened security measures related to the Code Orange, except for the ADIZ in Washington, D.C.

An ADIZ over New York City, N.Y., was eliminated, as was a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over downtown Chicago, Ill., when the threat level was lowered. AOPA believes it necessarily follows that the Washington, D.C., ADIZ should also be rescinded.

The Washington, D.C., ADIZ is not operationally viable and has placed significant financial and operational hardships on general aviation businesses and operators who are based within the airspace and creates a potential air safety problem for aircraft forced to loiter and circle outside of the ADIZ while attempting to gain ATC permission to enter.


As the ADIZ was implemented, AOPA began working immediately to educate pilots on the procedures in this new airspace. Within 24 hours of publication of the notice to airmen (notam) establishing the ADIZ, AOPA created multiple online resources such as the ADIZ graphical depiction, a list of frequently asked questions, and a plain-language version of the notam to aid pilots in navigating in and around this complex airspace area. AOPA also began immediately working with the FAA and the TSA to clarify notam discrepancies, which resulted in a revised notam.

As it became apparent that the ADIZ was not being eliminated after the threat level was reduced, AOPA developed and implemented ADIZ educational tools for that purpose. The association developed an online ADIZ course that walks pilots through the requirements for operating in or transitioning through the ADIZ. In addition, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation completely redesigned its airspace education program, "Know Before You Go," to include both ADIZ and other security TFR operations. Additionally, AOPA reminds pilots at every opportunity that it is their obligation to know and understand the airspace through which they're flying.

These efforts were recognized last week by the FAA's Baltimore Flight Standards District Office, which awarded AOPA's efforts with the Flight Standards "Good Friend Award." This award recognizes the outstanding job AOPA has done by taking a proactive leadership role in disseminating information on the ADIZ and other flight restrictions to the nation's pilot population.

AOPA has also initiated an Airport Watch program. This is a nationwide aviation watch system using the nation's 650,000 pilots that is supported by the TSA centralized toll-free hotline and system for reporting and acting on information provided by general aviation pilots and other individuals at airports. The Airport Watch program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and a training videotape to educate pilots and airport employees as to how security of their airports and aircraft can be enhanced.


Operationally, the ADIZ has been a disaster affecting pilots and the businesses that employ people in the Washington, D.C., area. With the ADIZ in place, the limited resources of the government and limited airspace have created unnecessary safety risks for both general aviation and commercial flights.

There are safety implications of forcing aircraft to circle and loiter over common points while they try and get permission to enter the ADIZ. Last summer, one pilot faced an unexpected delay to enter the ADIZ and made a forced landing. Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but the aircraft sustained extensive damage. With the summer looming and the expected increase in air traffic, this problem will persist.

Not only are we hearing from pilots on the safety concerns, air traffic controllers have also relayed significant safety concerns. In the past month, the first near-midair collision occurred within the ADIZ. This only exacerbates the controller's frustration and concern with providing any services to general aviation traffic because of the ADIZ.

In flight, pilots attempting to enter the ADIZ face lengthy hold times and in many cases are denied service. Contacting ATC via landlines has led to delays that ranged from 10 minutes to over two hours because of the ADIZ. Likewise, pilots attempting to obtain discrete codes via clearance delivery on the ground also experienced delays of up to 45 minutes while holding at the runway threshold with the engine running.

The complexities of the system and difficulties in obtaining clearances and filing flight plans has led to a decrease in flight activity directly affecting aviation businesses. At Tipton Airport, between 30 to 60 minutes is added to the length of each flight because of the ADIZ procedures.

Fuel sales, an economic mainstay, are reported down at most airports. Loss of based aircraft and transient traffic, as well as a decline in flying by remaining pilots, has led to the closing of businesses, adding to the decrease in revenues for impacted airports and the loss of jobs. This is important because these general aviation operations generate almost $123 million in economic activity annually. However, across the board, airport businesses report a drop in business between 30 and 50 percent.

Several examples tell a clear story of the lingering impacts of the current restrictions. Freeway Airport reports fuel sales have decreased by 35 percent, and Maryland Airport reports fuel sales down by at least 60 percent. Washington Exec/Hyde Field sells as much fuel in a month as they once did in a weekend. Montgomery County Airpark reports having 30 vacant hard-surface aircraft tiedowns currently available. Prior to 9/11 and the ADIZ, they had a waiting list for all tiedowns, including ones located on the grass. Perhaps the most vivid examples come from pilots fearing an ADIZ violation. Even experienced pilots with excellent histories have stopped flying, fearing legal actions or worse for an inadvertent ADIZ violation.


Based on information provided by pilots and FAA air traffic controllers shortly after the ADIZ went into effect, AOPA developed a comprehensive set of recommendations for improvements to the ADIZ. While continuing to press for elimination of the ADIZ, the association sent the recommendations to the FAA and the TSA in mid-March of 2003.

These recommendations were developed after discussions with security officials responsible for the National Capitol Area. AOPA's recommendations ensure the concept of knowing the "intent" of aircraft that are operating within the ADIZ, provide surveillance operations with tracking information, reduce the workload on pilots and controllers, and address technical problems with running out of discrete transponder codes.

AOPA has also strongly encouraged the FAA and the TSA to allow the use of the Direct User Access Terminal (DUAT) system for filing ADIZ flight plans. This is an automated system that would provide an equivalent level of security for filing a flight plan and ease the overload on the flight service system.

As a result of AOPA's continued advocacy, several small operational improvements have been implemented in the ADIZ. Following a 60-day test of several of AOPA's recommended operational improvements, the FAA and the TSA implemented them permanently in January 2004. These small improvements include special ingress and egress procedures for Bay Bridge and Kentmorr airports on the eastern fringe of the ADIZ in conjunction with discrete, airport-specific transponder codes to allow airspace users to access both airports.

In addition, egress procedures were developed at 12 other fringe airports around the ADIZ to allow for ease when exiting the ADIZ from those airports. The FAA and the TSA also eliminated the flight plan requirement for closed pattern operations at two airports in the ADIZ (Manassas and Martin State). Aircraft at these airports must be in contact with the aircraft traffic control tower, squawk a discrete transponder code, and may not depart the traffic pattern.

While these changes are helpful, they offer little improvements in day-to-day operational problems facing pilots in the area. Members of this subcommittee acted by approving Section 823 of Public Law 108-176 Vision 100 - Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. This requires that the FAA provide Congress with justification for the ADIZ within 30 days of enactment.

Unfortunately, the FAA has not provided this required report to Congress. Additionally, the law requires that the FAA provide a description of improvements to the current operational procedures that hamper general aviation access to the ADIZ. This requirement has also not been addressed.


Airports restricted in the D.C. area include DCA, which is closed to general aviation, College Park Airport (CGS) - in College Park, Maryland, Potomac Airfield (VKX) - near Fort Washington, Maryland, and Hyde Field (W32) - just south of Andrews Air Force Base. The three smaller general aviation airports have been reopened to locally based aircraft but remain closed to aircraft originating from another airport.

Especially for College Park, the loss of traffic from general aviation aircraft using the airport as a transient facility has been devastating.

For many general aviation pilots flying lighter aircraft, College Park was historically the general aviation airport for the nation's capital. Its location allowed pilots to fly in, access the Metro and the entire city. College Park has seen a 92-percent decrease in operations, a 60-percent decrease in based aircraft, and a 100-percent decrease in transient traffic (60 percent of pre-9/11 traffic was transient). The airport reports that two airport businesses have closed, leading to the loss of an additional seven jobs. A multi-decade flying club based on the airport with upwards of 20 members has ceased operations. Gross revenue for the current year is down 54 percent from 2000.

The other two airports have also been hit hard as well. At Hyde Field, only 35 percent of the aircraft remain from pre 9/11 days. Potomac Airfield is down to 80 based aircraft, with job losses experienced by nearly every tenant at the airfield.

While every airplane operator remaining at the DC-3 has gone through an extensive background check to remain at these locations, it is important to note that no new plane owners have even been allowed to go through the same process to locate their aircraft at one of these facilities.


  1. Rescind the Washington, D.C., ADIZ.

    The federal government has decreased the National Threat Level Alert Status to Yellow, President Bush has declared that the major fighting in Iraq has ended, and Operation Liberty Shield is winding down. It necessarily follows that the ADIZ should also be rescinded. Likewise, there are numerous security regulations and industry actions that have been put into place since 9/11 to address pilots and general aviation facilities.

    Rescinding the ADIZ doesn't mean that the National Capitol Region is unprotected. In fact, there would remain in place a Special Flight Rules Area that prohibits general aviation operations within a 15-mile radius of airspace around the nation's Capitol. This 15-mile "no-fly" zone has been in place since 9/11 and has proven to provide an appropriate level of airspace protection, without unnecessarily restricting general aviation commerce.
  2. Restore access to all D.C. metro area airports.

    National Airport remains a symbol of how we react to terrorists. Some access by general aviation should be allowed at this important airport. AOPA stands ready to work with all relevant security agencies and the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as elected officials, to complete a plan to restore access to DCA.

    It is also critically important to restore full access to the DC-3. College Park is the nation's oldest airport, built by the Wrights in 1909 to demonstrate their airplane to the U.S. Army. This airport, along with Hyde Field and Potomac Airpark, has been needlessly damaged long enough.

    AOPA appreciates the opportunity to testify today before the committee and stands ready to work with all members to continue to improve security while promoting the public's access to all general aviation facilities.
AOPA's Airport Watch
AOPA's Airport Watch

General Aviation and Homeland Security

Government Actions. Since September 11, 2001, the federal government has taken numerous actions related to aviation security. While the terrorist attacks of September 11th were not orchestrated using general aviation aircraft, the federal government nevertheless has taken actions directed at or that encompass general aviation operators. These federal actions include the following:


  • Advanced Screening of Pilot Databases. Regulations adopted by the FAA and the TSA on January 24, 2003, permit the immediate suspension, revocation, or refusal to issue an airmen certificate to anyone that the TSA has determined poses a threat to transportation security. This is based on TSA information as well as that provided by other security agencies.
  • New Airman Certificate. In July 2003, the Department of Transportation announced it would begin issuing a new, security-enhanced airman certificate. The new, difficult-to-counterfeit certificates will include a hologram and graphics printed on a plastic card and replace a paper-based document.
  • Requirement to Carry Photo ID. An FAA requirement, adopted in October 2002, requires a pilot to carry government-issued photo identification along with the pilot certificate when operating an aircraft.
  • Restrictions for Foreign Pilots. There are current federal restrictions on flight training of foreign nationals, including a requirement for background checks for individuals seeking to receive a U.S. pilot certificate on the basis of a foreign pilot certificate. This requirement was put in place in July 2002.
  • Background Checks for Certain Flight Training. A federal requirement mandates that the Transportation Security Administration conduct a comprehensive background check for all non-U.S. citizens seeking flight training.

Commercial Operators/Businesses

  • Charter Flight Security Program. The "Twelve-Five" and "Private Charter" rules, which establish new security requirements for non-scheduled commercial operators (charters) that are equivalent to those imposed upon scheduled airlines, became effective April 1, 2003. The "Twelve-Five" rule requires that certain aircraft operators using aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight (MTOW) of 12,500 pounds or more implement a specific security program. The "Private Charter" rule adds additional requirements for aircraft operators using aircraft with a MTOW of greater than 45,500 kg (100,309.3 pounds) or that carry 61 or more passengers. Charter flight operations are commonly considered to be part of GA, although much more stringent operational and certification requirements are imposed on them than is the case for non-commercial flights.
  • Flight School Security. In January 2002, the FAA issued a number of recommended actions addressing security for flight schools and those renting aircraft. These recommendations are designed to provide security against the unauthorized use of a flight school or rental aircraft.
  • Flight School Security Awareness Training. Also included in the Conference Report accompanying the FAA reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2115) is a requirement that employees be trained in "suspicious circumstances and activities of individuals enrolling or attending" a flight school.


  • Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC). Formed in 1989 to examine civil aviation security and to ensure a high degree of safety for the traveling public, ASAC encompasses members from the airlines, air cargo industries, aviation organizations, Secret Service, FBI, law enforcement, and federal aviation officials. In November 2003, the committee approved a report of the General Aviation Airport Working Group that outlined a number of recommended general aviation airport security measures. That report has been delivered to TSA for dissemination as recommended procedures.
  • Washington D.C. ADIZ, FRZ, and Department of Defense Airspace Restrictions. Since September 11, the FAA and government officials have imposed airspace restrictions at various locations throughout the United States to restrict aircraft operations in certain areas when intelligence officials report heightened security sensitivity. This includes the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around Washington, D.C., the associated Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), and restrictions that are put into effect when the President travels outside of Washington D.C. These airspace restrictions are patrolled and enforced by U.S. Customs and U.S. military aircraft.
  • Hotline to Report Suspicious Activity. In December 2002, TSA implemented a hotline (1-866-GA-SECURE), which is operated 24/7 by the National Response Center and managed by the U.S. Coast Guard that allows anyone to report suspicious activity to a central command structure.
  • Ronald Reagan National Airport. Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) remains closed to all general aviation operations except those few specifically permitted by waiver.
  • Special Flight Rules Area within 15 miles of Washington, D.C. Special Federal Aviation Regulation 94 ("SFAR 94"), implemented on February 19, 2002, prohibits general aviation operations within this 15-mile area unless authorized by TSA. This limits access at Potomac Airpark, Hyde Field, and College Park Airport (referred to as the "DC-3") to only cleared and vetted pilots operating in compliance with specific flight planning and ATC procedures.
  • Limits on Flights Over Stadiums. A preexisting notice to airman ("notam") was updated on March 6, 2003, due to enactment of P.L. 108-7 that limits aircraft operations in the airspace over major sporting events. Commercial operators with a need to fly within 3 nautical miles and below 3,000 feet of an event stadium must apply for a waiver through TSA and must complete a pilot vetting process to obtain that waiver. Banner-towing operations are prevented from flying over major sporting events (college football, professional baseball, football, NASCAR, and other specifically identified events). Other restrictions may be applied on a case-by-case basis when appropriate; i.e., the '02 Winter Olympics.
  • No Flights Over Nuclear Facilities. On February 26, 2003, a preexisting notam advising pilots not to circle or loiter over nuclear facilities was strengthened to reinforce the need for pilots to avoid these facilities altogether.

Industry Actions. Individual general aviation organizations have taken proactive steps to increase security and security awareness. Aviation, while big in economic impact and number of operations, is relatively small when compared to other forms of transportation such as surface transportation. As such, general aviation operators are keenly aware and willing to individually enhance the security of their operation without the need of government regulation. Given the ease and frequency of intrastate movement, combined with the wide variety of operations, measures taken by individual operators are more comprehensive than regulation at the state or federal level.

  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) developed a nationwide aviation watch system (Airport Watch) using the nation's 650,000 pilots that is supported by the TSA centralized toll-free hotline and system for reporting and acting on information provided by general aviation pilots and other individuals at airports. The Airport Watch Program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and training videotape to educate pilots and airport employees as to how security of their airports and aircraft can be enhanced.
  • Airports and Airport Tenants. Many airports and individual airport tenants have already implemented security enhancements in addition to the aforementioned Airport Watch Program. Such initiatives have included but are not limited to installing alarm systems, controlling access, and monitoring and improving gates, fencing, and lighting. Some airports are also experimenting with new technologies in security monitoring, surveillance, and access control technologies, including WiFi and sophisticated target acquisition software programs.
  • American Association of Airport Executives. The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) "General Aviation Airport Security Task Force" delivered a set of recommendations to the TSA in June 2002. The eight recommendations made by AAAE were developed by establishing categories of airports based on runway length and number of based aircraft. Recommendations also included securing aircraft, establishing a threat communication system, developing a new pilot license, securing aircraft, and expanding the FAA contract tower program.
  • Experimental Aircraft Association. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) mobilized its network of nearly 1,000 chapters nationwide to improve security at many of the nation's airports through increased knowledge and vigilance. To support this effort, Airport Watch videotapes and other educational materials concerning security practices and airspace restrictions were distributed nationwide.
  • General Aviation Coalition. In December 2001, the GAC issued a series of 12 recommendations for general aviation security. The government and the general aviation community have implemented many of these. In addition, the TSA conducts regular meetings with the GAC to address general aviation security issues.
  • General Aviation Manufacturers Association. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is working to help aircraft sellers identify unusual financial transactions that could indicate attempts to launder money via the purchase of aircraft, or otherwise suspicious customer behavior. The publication, titled Guidelines for Establishing Anti-Money Laundering Procedures and Practices Related to the Purchase of General Aviation Aircraft was developed in consultation with manufacturers, aviation-finance companies, used aircraft brokers, and fractional ownership companies.
  • National Agricultural Aircraft Association. The National Agricultural Aircraft Association (NAAA) has produced an educational program called the Professional Aerial Applicators Support System (PAASS) that includes a new educational portion every year, specifically addressing security at aerial application operations. The PAASS program reaches roughly 2,000 people involved in aerial application every year. It is presented at state and regional agricultural aviation association meetings throughout the country. In addition, NAAA members have undergone several industry-wide FBI background investigations since 9/11/01.
  • National Air Transportation Association. On September 24, 2001, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) issued a series of recommended security procedures for all aviation businesses through its Business Aviation Security Task Force. The recommendations focused on immediate steps that should be taken, plus longer term actions. Examples included signage, appointing a single manager responsible for security at all locations, developing a "security mission statement," methods to verify identification, seeking local law enforcement assistance to develop a security plan, and a host of others, including an advisory poster that was created and distributed free to all NATA members.
  • National Association of Flight Instructors. The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), an affiliate of EAA, has developed a series of security recommendations and best practices for flight schools and flight instructors that have been distributed widely throughout the flight training community. Currently, NAFI is working in cooperation with the TSA to develop training materials and distribution methods in support of the proposed flight school security awareness training requirements contained in the pending Conference Report accompanying the FAA reauthorization legislation (H.R. 2115).
  • National Association of State Aviation Officials. In December 2002, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) submitted to federal and state authorities a document outlining general aviation security recommendations. This included securing unattended aircraft, developing a security plan, and establishing a means to report suspicious activity. In addition, airports should establish a public awareness campaign; perform regular inspection of airport property and control movement of persons and vehicles in the aircraft operating area. The state aviation officials suggested federal authorities implement a new pilot ID, establish a means to verify the identity of persons requesting flight lessons with a government watch list, implement a process for categorizing airports, and ensure adequate federal funding for airport security needs.
  • National Business Aviation Association. TSA launched a pilot project in cooperation with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) at Teterboro Airport (KTEB) in New Jersey. This has been expanded by the TSA to include Part 91 operators based at Morristown, New Jersey (KMMU), and White Plains, New York (KHPN). This initiative is proceeding as a "proof-of-concept" validating an NBAA-proposed security protocol for Part 91 operators who can apply for a TSA Access Certificate (TSAAC). Once issued, the TSAAC allows operators to operate internationally without the need for a waiver. TSA is also considering granting access for TSAAC holders to designated TFRs.
  • United States Parachute Association. USPA disseminated detailed security recommendations to its 219 skydiving clubs and centers across the United States, most of them based on general aviation airports. Skydive operators and their customers are often on airports during days and hours when others are not and can enhance any airport watch program. Other recommendations were aimed at ensuring security of jump aircraft during operations as well as periods when aircraft are idle.

January 2004

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
421 Aviation Way
Frederick, MD 21701

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