Senate Commerce Committee
June 9, 2005
AOPA represents over 400,000 pilots and aircraft owners - more than two-thirds of all pilots in the United States who take security responsibility seriously. However, they are very concerned about security requirements adversely affecting their ability to fly by reducing their access to airports and airspace.
Since 9-11, significant enhancements have been made to general aviation security. Pilots are vetted, their names are cross-checked against terrorist watch lists, new security procedures and equipment have been implemented at general aviation airports, and the airspace can at anytime and anyplace be closed or limited to pilots anywhere in the country.
The threat posed by general aviation aircraft is minimal. A November 2004 GAO report on General Aviation Security noted that "the small size, lack of fuel capacity, and minimal destructive power of most general aviation aircraft make them unattractive to terrorists and, thereby, reduce the possibility of threat associated with their misuse."
AOPA's Airport Watch program enlists the support of some 550,000 general aviation pilots to watch for and report suspicious activities that might have security implications. Airport Watch is supported by all segments of the general aviation community, along with local municipalities, states, the FAA and TSA. The program features a hotline (866/GA SECURE) that is tied into the Department of Homeland Security.
AOPA members are concerned about the airspace restrictions around the National Capitol Region. The Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is huge, encompassing 19 public-use airports, over 10,000 pilots, 2,147 aircraft, accounting for nearly 1 million operations per year. It spans 90-miles, stretching from the tip of West Virginia, across the Chesapeake Bay to Maryland's Eastern Shore, and south to just outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The ADIZ adversely affects safety, is costly to operate, and is negatively impacting pilots and aviation businesses - it doesn't work. The ADIZ was established as a temporary security measure in February 2003, 17 months after 9-11, when the threat level was raised, and left in place once the threat level was lowered. It quadruples controller workload and creates significant safety concerns for pilots in the air, generating operational challenges that the government has been unable to remedy and has decreased business at affected airports by 30 to 50 percent.
Congress has called for operational improvements to the ADIZ, but federal agencies have been slow to address the difficulties. Vision 100 (PL 108-176) directed the FAA to justify the ADIZ and recommend operational changes. This mandate has not been met. Neither has the aviation community been allowed to engage in meaningful discussions about operational improvements with the federal agencies.
For the general aviation community, the May 11 event was unacceptable. The airspace is charted, notams are in place, AOPA offers flight planning software free to members to help pilots navigate around TFRs - this incident was not reflective of the community. However, it also underscores that there must be reason applied as Congress and agencies address issues of national security. A small, slow-flying aircraft does not present a major terror threat. On that day, the intercept pilots understood this and responded appropriately.
AOPA is committed to working with the FAA and TSA to educate pilots about general aviation security requirements. Last year, AOPA sent members over 4.7 million e-mail alerts about airspace restrictions in their local area. AOPA and our Air Safety Foundation have developed eight specific training tools for the ADIZ and post 9-11-airspace operations, and the flight planning assistance is provided via AOPA's Web site to assist in avoiding security-restricted areas.
The ADIZ, in its current form, does not work. With the implementation of general aviation security enhancements across the industry, and the laser visual warning system and ground-based defenses in the National Capitol Region, AOPA contends that it is time to either eliminate or dramatically change the requirements of the Washington, D.C., ADIZ.