"This is one of the most important fights we've had for a long time," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The outcome could affect pilots' freedom to fly everywhere. That's why AOPA has devoted so much to preventing a permanent Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around Washington, D.C."
And so have AOPA members. By Monday afternoon, 21,136 people had commented to the FAA proposal, the vast majority in opposition. Many of those people had been prompted to write because of an AOPA National Pilot Alert mailed to all 406,000 members. That illustrates how important the ADIZ issue really is, because it is only the third national alert the association has issued in over a decade.
AOPA also commissioned an economic impact study, hiring two nationally known, independent research firms. While federal regulations require agencies to document the economic impact of proposed regulations, the FAA admitted that it had no data on the effect of the ADIZ on area businesses and pilots. So AOPA did the work for them. "Of course, it doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to figure out that ADIZ flight restrictions would hurt aviation businesses, but now we have the data to prove it," said Boyer.
The association has brought in a former Department of Transportation counsel to help draft its official comments against the proposal. "We're very good at this, but this added expertise will ensure that we've explored every nook and cranny of the law," said Boyer.
Speaking of the law, AOPA's dedicated Washington, D.C., staff is continuing its intense lobbying of lawmakers in Congress. Individual members of Congress have already weighed in against the ADIZ, and Congress previously passed a law requiring the federal government to justify the continued existence of the ADIZ.
"We're not going to give up," said Boyer. "The stakes are too high."
Updated: February 6, 2006, 4:15 p.m. EST