June 7, 2005
Letters to the Editor
7950 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, VA 22108-0605
To the Editor:
USA Today's editorial on general aviation security around Washington is a muddled mix of irrational fear and misinformation ("Safer skies? Not this way," Homeland security debate, Tuesday).
The errant Cessna on May 11 caused a scare on the ground in Washington but was never considered by air defense authorities to be a serious threat. Their procedures worked very well. Instead of inciting unjustified fear of small airplanes, USA Today should address the need for orderly evacuation procedures.
The re-opening of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to 48 general aviation flights per day (24 arrivals, 24 departures) has little relevance to the pilots of most small airplanes because of the extraordinary security requirements. These pilots use small airplanes for travel the way others use the family car. They are, however, negatively affected by an unrelated issue - the huge area of restricted airspace around Washington called the Air Defense Identification Zone.
With 2,000 flights each day, this restricted airspace is an economic and operational burden to pilots, the Federal Aviation Administration and security officials alike and provides dubious benefits. That's why officials are considering reducing the restricted airspace in favor of more effective steps. The restricted airspace established around New York City for the Iraq War was eliminated in 2003 for similar reasons.
Washington would retain the 15-mile no-fly zone that has existed since right after 9/11. There are also greatly enhanced radar coverage and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as the new Visual Warning System to prevent inadvertent intrusions.
Is USA Today in favor of effective responses to threats, or does it want to persist in provoking needless fear and diverting attention from greater dangers?
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association