The FAA is taking steps to create more sensible security measures in and around the nation's capital. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced on July 26 changes to the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), something the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has been advocating for years and anticipating for weeks.
"This is part of an incremental process to reduce and hopefully eliminate overly burdensome flight restrictions in the future," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Let me acknowledge the fact that the FAA was often blamed for the ADIZ. But unlike the user fee issue, it has truly been general aviation's 'agent for change' within all levels of government."
The ADIZ requires pilots who operate within that airspace to maintain two-way radio communication with air traffic controllers, be on a flight plan, and have a discrete transponder code so they can be tracked for security purposes.
Instead of a "Mickey Mouse" pattern of three interconnecting rings around Washington and Baltimore, which is difficult to navigate and enforce, the ADIZ will become a 30-nautical-mile-radius circle around the DCA VOR/DME. This will free up four public-use general aviation airports and 1,800 square miles of airspace. That leaves 15 public-use airports covered by the ADIZ restrictions. Of these, three are in the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), closer to the city, and will still be under heavy restrictions. In addition, there will be VFR speed restrictions inside and immediately surrounding the ADIZ airspace. The changes become effective August 30. Current charts will be valid until that date, and new charts will be revised accordingly.
Boyer had detailed the ADIZ changes along with displaying a graphic at the AOPA Fly-In and Open House last month. In February 2003, the ADIZ was created with no public comment via the notices to airmen (notam) process. Federal officials have been looking at making the ADIZ permanent through the rulemaking process.
"One of the actions we have pushed for as an alternative to a final rule was an immediate change to the notam," Boyer said. "So, while we are not totally content with today's announcement, it is significant."
Thanks to the more than 22,000 pilots who filed comments in opposition to the proposal and testified at four public meetings about the hardships the restrictions have caused, federal officials have begun to scale back the ADIZ.
AOPA staff leveraged the outpouring of support from pilots in its ongoing efforts to lobby for ADIZ reform in meetings with security officials and Congress. AOPA had numerous meetings in the past year with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, FAA, Department of Defense, and White House.
To ease operations and communications, Blakey said four new controller positions will be added at the Potomac terminal radar approach control facility (tracon).
"Lots of unfortunate violations occurred when the first version [of the ADIZ] was put in place. When we asked for comments, you told us to simplify the design. You told us that it would need to improve safety. You told us not to reduce security," said Blakey in a prepared speech. "Score one for GA. You were right on each count. This new ADIZ doesn't diminish security. It's safer. And it's one more example of the FAA, Homeland Security, DoD, and the GA community working together to do the right thing. So kudos to you."
The 412,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil aviation association. AOPA is committed to striking a common-sense balance that fulfills national security needs while protecting aircraft owners and pilots from overly burdensome regulations.
July 26, 2007