Statement of Phil Boyer
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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.
AOPA's Airport Watch
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:
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.
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