If you’re driving down the road reading vanity plates and see “FTSFRA,” you can bet AOPA member Ed Levine of Leesburg, Va., is behind the wheel. His vanity plate isn’t so vain. It stands for “Fight the Special Flight Rules Area,” the new name for the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone.
The ADIZ will be replaced by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) starting Feb. 17. AOPA had urged the FAA to postpone the D.C. SFRA, arguing that it fell within President Barack Obama’s order that federal agencies stop and review all regulations issued by the previous administration that had not yet been implemented. After conferring with the Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, and White House officials, the FAA on Feb. 6 denied AOPA’s request to postpone the Feb. 17 changeover.
“In developing the final rule, we worked closely with federal law enforcement and security agencies to balance the economic and operational burdens with national security needs to the maximum extent possible,” the FAA explained.
Operationally, pilots won’t notice a difference, but the airspace will now be included in 14 CFR Part 93. The sensitive security airspace will still be a 30-nautical-mile radius of the Washington, D.C., (DCA) VOR/DME and extend from the surface up to 18,000 feet msl. A 60-nm speed ring also is centered on the VOR/DME.
“So whether or not it is an ADIZ or a SFRA, we should fight it and let our airspace go back to the way things were pre 9/11,” said Levine. “Fight the ADIZ. Fight the SFRA.”
AOPA has sought changes to or outright elimination of the ADIZ since it was hastily imposed in 2003 before the United States invaded Iraq. Initially, the ADIZ was couched as a “temporary” measure, but it quickly became evident that federal officials intended to make it permanent.
In late 2005, when the FAA proposed to make the ADIZ permanent, AOPA called on its membership to oppose the move. The FAA received more than 22,000 comments on the proposal, the overwhelming majority of which were negative.
Congress also called numerous hearings to determine the economic impact the ADIZ was having on airports and business in the Washington, D.C., area and figure out whether the airspace restrictions were truly justified. AOPA initiated an economic study in 2005 that showed that 10 of the 13 airports analyzed inside the ADIZ were losing about $43 million annually in wages, revenue, taxes, and local spending.
The association was successful in getting the size of the ADIZ reduced from its original “Mickey Mouse” shape that encompassed the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., Class B airspace to its current 30-nm radius. However, AOPA also had lobbied that it be further reduced to a 20-nm radius or outright eliminated because the government has never provided evidence that the ADIZ has resulted in any measurable increase in security.
“We never stopped fighting the ADIZ,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “Pilots are still adamantly opposed to this rule—and Ed Levine is a perfect example! That’s why we will continue looking for opportunities. Circumstances evolve, and rules can be changed.”