The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is opposed to an FAA proposal released today that would codify flight restrictions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The restricted area, which would receive the brand-new designation "National Defense Airspace," covers nearly 2,000 square miles around Washington, D.C., and extends to an altitude of 18,000 feet.
"AOPA recognizes the necessity to protect the national assets in the nation's capital, and the 15-nautical-mile-radius no-fly zone known as the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) does that," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But we take strong exception with the FAA's proposal to make the temporary outer ring of Washington's defensive airspace - the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) - permanent."
Since the September 11 attacks, the government has made numerous upgrades to security systems around the nation's capital, including a new visual warning system (VWS) that uses lasers to warn pilots away from restricted airspace, installed anti-aircraft missile batteries, and greatly improved radar coverage. Such measures significantly enhance the protection offered by the FRZ, making the ADIZ unnecessary.
The Washington, D.C., ADIZ and another over New York City were established during a weekend in February 2003, as temporary security measures imposed in preparation for the then-pending Iraq war. The New York ADIZ was eliminated after President Bush declared the end of major hostilities. However, two and a half years later, the Washington-area ADIZ still exists.
"The government has failed to assess the impact of what was intended as a temporary security enhancement on pilots, on air traffic controllers, or on airports and the businesses based there," Boyer continued. "No general aviation aircraft has ever been used in a terrorist attack. And the government has determined that not a single ADIZ violation was terrorist-related."
Since the ADIZ was implemented in 2003, AOPA has proposed various ways the ADIZ could be altered without threatening national security, and without eliminating the FRZ. For example, AOPA proposed allowing smaller, slower aircraft to operate without the flight plan or identifier beacon requirements currently in place. Such general aviation aircraft do not pose a significant threat because they do not have the mass nor cargo-carrying capacity to cause large-scale damage.
"The ADIZ is operationally unworkable and imposes significant burdens on pilots and air traffic controllers alike," Boyer noted. "Yet the FAA proposal does a poor job of even justifying making the ADIZ permanent and does nothing to address the operational problems."
The more than 406,000 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.
August 4, 2005