The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is opposing legislation introduced today to increase the penalties that may be incurred by pilots who violate the restricted airspace around Washington, D.C. - a 15-mile flight-restricted zone (FRZ) centered on the Washington Monument, and the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around the FRZ. The association supports pilot education as a means of preventing airspace violations, rather than excessive penalties for those who violate the restricted areas.
The bill, introduced by Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), is a result of three recent high-profile airspace incursions that caused the evacuation of Capitol Hill offices in D.C. It would allow a maximum fine of $100,000 and a pilot certificate suspension of between two and five years for pilots who violate the FRZ. ADIZ violators could be fined up to $5,000. The legislation also includes mandatory pilot training that would focus on such issues as the FRZ, ADIZ, and intercept procedures.
"AOPA supports education, rather than legislation, as a solution to the problem," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Pilots understand that their lives are potentially at stake if they violate the airspace around Washington, D.C. The ultimate penalty already exists."
At a congressional hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform last week, FAA Deputy Administrator Robert Sturgell announced a national educational initiative that would focus on the D.C.-area FRZ, ADIZ, and other security-related issues nationwide.
"The FAA initiative mitigates the need for the legislation proposed by Representatives Hoyer and Blunt," said Boyer.
Since 9/11, AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation have focused on educating members, and all pilots, about restricted airspace nationwide by offering free online tutorials ( www.aopa.org), posting intercept procedures and notices to airmen (notams) online, and sending e-mails to members each time a temporary flight restriction (TFR) goes into effect in their region of the country. In 2004 alone, AOPA sent nearly five million individual airspace alert e-mails. The FAA agrees with AOPA that educating pilots will have a greater impact than stiffer fines and certificate suspensions.
"We think training is the key to further reducing violations," said FAA's Sturgell, in his statement before Congress. "FAA is working with the users of the system to help heighten awareness of the restrictions and what can happen if they are not complied with."
The more than 405,000 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 27, 2005