"I shake my head in frustration," AOPA President Phil Boyer told one TV reporter Wednesday. "Over 4 million e-mails sent last year to members concerning airspace restrictions, a continuing campaign on the Web, and our cooperative educational efforts with the FAA and TSA. It's absurd to me to think that there is a pilot as close to Washington, D.C., as the southern Pennsylvania border who is not aware of this airspace."
For AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula, the irony of Wednesday's airspace incursion was particularly piquant because of recent progress on addressing pilot concerns with the Washington Metropolitan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). "It has certainly deflated my optimism - at least momentarily - for the fight to improve the ADIZ," said Cebula.
"It's a shame," said Boyer. "I think we were making progress and were very close to some resolutions. At least for the short term, they really made things difficult for all the other pilots in this country who obey the rules. And after all of the hard work that we've put in, that's more than frustrating."
But is the battle now over because two pilots who really should have known better blundered into the nation's most sensitive airspace?
It appears that Congress is still moving forward legislation to reopen Reagan National Airport (DCA) to general aviation - albeit on a very restricted basis, including a requirement for an armed law enforcement officer on board any GA aircraft landing at DCA.
"Some of our friends in Congress are also still willing to push ahead for more 'user friendly' security controls," said Cebula. "However, this situation could definitely make their efforts more difficult."
And there is the media coverage. Although there were some outrageous statements from a few " talking heads," most of the others were reasonably fair and restrained. And most have now gotten AOPA's message that a small general aviation aircraft isn't capable of causing much damage or being a threat to national security.
So, in the long term, the damage may not be all that bad. But the inadequate planning and defective navigation of two Pennsylvania pilots undoubtedly has made the "long term" much longer than it was a few days ago.
May 13, 2005