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Airport business owners say D.C. ADIZ is suffocating their businessesAirport business owners say D.C. ADIZ is suffocating their businesses

Airport business owners say D.C. ADIZ is suffocating their businesses
AOPA commissions independent study to determine economic impact

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The Washington, D.C., ADIZ
with Flight Restricted Zone

Business owners at airports within the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) say it's suffocating small aviation businesses. They report revenue cut in half or more, employees leaving for fear of harming careers, and customers scared away by daunting regulations. And those comments are quantified by an AOPA-commissioned, independent economic impact study.

"The FAA concedes that it hasn't collected any data on the change in operations and revenue imposed by the ADIZ," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "So AOPA commissioned two nationally known firms to find out. And it wasn't pretty."

While airports and aviation businesses nationally have recovered fairly well from the post-9/11 shocks, the same can't be said for businesses inside and near the Washington, D.C., ADIZ.

For example, Montgomery County Airpark has lost 72 jobs and $2.7 million in local purchasing, while Martin State Airport has lost some $15 million in revenue.

"There couldn't be a more graphic demonstration than this of why an ADIZ is harmful wherever it might be established," said Boyer. "That's why it is critically important for every pilot to take 15 minutes now to write the FAA and oppose a permanent Washington, D.C., ADIZ. It could set a dangerous precedent, threatening every pilot's freedom to fly."

(See AOPA's Operation ADIZ Member Action Center.)

AOPA is calling on all pilots, regardless of where they live, to file official comments with the FAA and to strongly oppose the proposal.

"People are avoiding the ADIZ because of the horror stories that are out there," said Bill Finagin, a retired two-star U.S. Navy admiral who runs Dent Air Ltd. at Lee Airport, a 2,500-foot airstrip in Annapolis, Maryland. "People call for instruction and when they find out it is within the ADIZ they frequently decline coming. I have also lost four new aircraft sales totaling about $1 million because the people do not want to fly into Annapolis. They just tell me the ADIZ is too intimidating."

Now two and a half years old, the ADIZ was set up as a temporary precaution around Washington prior to the invasion of Iraq. Similar airspace restrictions over New York and Chicago were removed within months of being imposed. But the Washington ADIZ remains, and an FAA proposal to make it permanent has a November 2 deadline for public comments.

Ironically, while the ADIZ was intended to protect Washington, it is having the harshest impact on tiny airstrips such as Annapolis that host small aircraft with the least capacity to pose any security risk.

"The ADIZ has reduced our income by 50 percent in some departments," said Gil Bauserman, manager of Bauserman Service at Maryland Airport in Indian Head, Maryland, a small airfield with both asphalt and grass runways 16 miles south of Washington. "After 9/11 we were starting to recover, until the ADIZ was installed."

But even at busier airports such as those in Leesburg and Manassas, Virginia, flight school managers report that instructors trying to build time for a possible career with the airlines are staying away for fear that a minor - and harmless - technical glitch could scuttle their career plans.

"During 2003 and 2004, seven of our 35 flight instructors were violated by the FAA for transponder irregularities," said Dr. Don Robb of the Av-Ed Flight School at Leesburg. "Currently our business is having difficulty finding enough instructors. They are concerned about damage to their career prospects because of ADIZ violations."

Robb also reports a decline in aircraft rentals, a common way for new pilots and others who do not own aircraft to build experience.

"Renters are very vocal in their concern, and it appears to account for much of the decline in their business," Robb said.

Jim Stone, of the Manassas Aviation Center, also reported a decline in instruction and rentals.

"Due to the restrictions, added time required for flight training, added time to fly outside the ADIZ for training, and possible infractions for violations, students have stopped renting airplanes, and prospective student have been turned off," said Stone.

For owners at the Kentmorr Airport, a residential airpark in Stevensville, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the ADIZ problem isn't revenue, it's real estate values. Owners at the field have houses and hangars that face a 2,400-foot grass runway. They could sell, but risk doing so with an asset diminished by a government action that offers little recourse.

"We can't relocate the airport out of the ADIZ so we are pretty much stuck," said Kentmorr owner Roger Guest. "People that live here have made a substantial investment in their homes and hangars to enjoy the convenience of having their airplanes available to fly. Most of us are retired and live here to enjoy flying and visits from our friends. That all pretty much ended with the implementation of the ADIZ."

AOPA commissioned Aviation Management Consulting Group and Martin Associates to determine the economic impact of the ADIZ. The two firms have extensive experience in gathering and analyzing this type of data. Martin Associates used the same economic impact methodology to evaluate the ADIZ as it has for major international airports including Dulles, Baltimore-Washington, Hartsfield Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, and Sea-Tac International airports.

Updated: October 17, 2005, 3:37 p.m. EDT

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