For eight hours on Inauguration Day, Washington, D.C., and the skies for miles around it, will be completely off-limits to general aviation. Similarly, the streets of the nation's capital will be closed to vehicular traffic. Security officials have declared that President Bush's inauguration on January 20 is a "national security event," and the FAA, responding to orders from the Defense and Homeland Security departments, has issued a flight advisory and the Transportation Security Administration has issued a security advisory prohibiting all general aviation VFR flight within or above the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
"This is yet another example of GA being made a scapegoat in the name of security," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "All the evidence shows that GA aircraft do not pose a significant security threat - especially when compared to the devastation an airliner could cause. Yet the airlines are allowed to fly freely while GA pilots are essentially grounded."
The GA ban is in effect from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. The only exception is for IFR aircraft landing or departing Washington Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International airports, but the FAA anticipates that the GA ramps at both airports will fill up with VIP aircraft. Once all the parking is taken, even IFR aircraft will be diverted to airports outside the ADIZ.
AOPA is not alone in questioning the over-the-top security measures surrounding the coming inauguration. Washington Mayor Anthony Williams has complained that multiple checkpoints and street closures imposed in advance of the inauguration are excessive, snarling traffic, damaging businesses, impacting tourism, and choking commerce in the capital city.
"The GA community understands the need for reasonable security measures around the inauguration," Boyer added. "What we don't understand is why the measures being taken for this inauguration are so extreme. These measures are unnecessarily displacing thousands of pilots, restricting their freedom, and resulting in loss of income for those who use GA to conduct their business."
AOPA continues to question the need for the ADIZ at all, arguing that it is an inappropriate "solution" to a nonexistent problem. "A small airplane weighing less than a large SUV and traveling at 120 mph just doesn't pose the same kind of threat - or create as narrow a response window - as a fully loaded airliner traveling at 400 mph," Boyer explained. "The ADIZ simply doesn't reflect those differences. All it does is restrict GA without doing anything to protect Washington and its citizens from terrorists."
January 6, 2005