Another media day at AOPA
The news had barely crossed the wires when AOPA President Phil Boyer and the AOPA media relations team began once again to explain to national and local media why a permanent ADIZ wasn't necessary, why it hurt pilots, and why there were better solutions to the problem.
"The ultimate penalty already exists," Boyer told reporters. "A pilot who wanders into restricted airspace could get shot down."
AOPA pointed out that a GA airplane has never been used in an act of terrorism, and the government admits that it has no intelligence to suggest that terrorist groups are currently planning to use GA aircraft in attacks against the United States.
The restricted airspace is cumbersome and inefficient, an operational failure. The FAA has never devoted the resources needed to make it work. It's hurt businesses, pilots, and controllers.
"If there's any good to come out of this proposal, it's that the public will finally have 90 days to comment on it," Boyer said.
AOPA opposes an FAA proposal released last Wednesday that would codify flight restrictions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The restricted area would be designated as "national defense airspace" and would replace the current air defense identification zone (ADIZ), covering nearly 2,000 square miles and extending to an altitude of 18,000 feet.
"AOPA recognizes the necessity to protect the national assets in the nation's capital. The 15-nautical-mile-radius no-fly zone known as the flight-restricted zone (FRZ) does that," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But we take strong exception to the FAA's proposal to make the temporary outer ring of Washington's defensive airspace - the ADIZ - permanent."
The FAA proposal also reiterated the agency's statutory authority to, with the appropriate evidence, pursue criminal prosecution against anyone who "knowingly or willfully violates" national defense airspace. Current law provides for fines or imprisonment for up to one year.
Since the September 11 attacks, the government has made numerous upgrades to security systems around the nation's capital, including a new visual warning system (VWS) that uses lasers to warn pilots away from restricted airspace, anti-aircraft missile batteries, and greatly improved radar coverage. Such measures significantly enhance the protection offered by the FRZ, making the ADIZ unnecessary.
The Washington, D.C., ADIZ and another over New York City were established during a weekend in February 2003, as temporary security measures imposed in preparation for the then-pending Iraq war. The New York ADIZ was eliminated after President Bush declared the end of major hostilities. However, two and a half years later, the Washington-area ADIZ still exists.
"The government has failed to assess the impact of what was intended as a temporary security enhancement on pilots, on air traffic controllers, or on airports and the businesses based there," Boyer continued. "No general aviation aircraft has ever been used in a terrorist attack. And the government has determined that not a single ADIZ violation was terrorist-related."
Since the ADIZ was implemented in 2003, AOPA has proposed various ways the airspace could be altered without threatening national security and without eliminating the FRZ. For example, AOPA proposed allowing smaller, slower aircraft to operate without the flight plan or identifier beacon requirements currently in place. Such general aviation aircraft do not pose a significant threat because they have neither the mass nor cargo-carrying capacity to cause large-scale damage.
"The ADIZ is operationally unworkable and imposes significant burdens on pilots and air traffic controllers alike," Boyer noted. "Yet the FAA proposal does a poor job of even justifying making the ADIZ permanent and does nothing to address the operational problems."
Pilots should submit comments on the proposal before November 2 to:
Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St., SW
Nassif Building, Room PL-401
Washington, DC 20590-001
Updated: August 4, 2005, 6:26 p.m. EDT