Bust the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and you're now likely to see a different aircraft off your wing - an orange Coast Guard HH-65C Dolphin instead of a black Customs and Border Patrol Blackhawk.
That's because the Coast Guard's air station in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is taking over responsibility for intercepting "low and slow" aircraft violating the ADIZ without the proper flight plan and clearance.
Another change: The Dolphins will be equipped with civilian-frequency VHF radios plus electronic signboards so that they can communicate with pilots who might be having radio problems.
"Our concern about any change is that the enforcement agency understand general aviation and not be 'trigger happy,'" said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "We worked with the Department of Homeland Security as this transfer was contemplated, and we strongly expressed the need for Coast Guard pilots to have the training and experience to safely intercept GA aircraft that inadvertently violate the ADIZ and to escort them to an appropriate landing place."
With the increased emphasis on protecting the border between the United States and Mexico, Customs and Border Patrol aircraft are redeployed to the south.
The Coast Guard is more experienced with the chain-of-command involved in the defense of the National Capital Region airspace. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is responsible for air defense of the nation, including the Washington area. This Department of Defense agency uses assets from a number of military and civilian agencies to carry out that role.
While Customs and Border Patrol is primarily a law enforcement agency, the Coast Guard has both military and law enforcement responsibilities. The Coast Guard is one of seven, uniformed military services, and during wartime, it becomes part of the Department of Defense. So it is "uniquely qualified for this mission," according to the Coast Guard press release.
The Coast Guard helicopters will be based at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in the center of the Washington, D.C., ADIZ.
September 25, 2006