DC Area Remains Out Of Reach For Most GA Pilots
AOPA President Phil Boyer told Congress Tuesday afternoon that
after two-and-a-half years of being shut out of the nation's
capital, it's time to re-open the door to all of general aviation.
At a hearing on permitting GA flights into Reagan National Airport
(held in the Signature Flight Support hangar), Boyer said that it
is also time to rescind the Baltimore-Washington air defense
identification zone (ADIZ) and once again permit GA pilots to
access the national capital area.
"We support reopening Reagan National Airport to general
aviation," Boyer told the House aviation subcommittee, "but most of
our members are just trying to get closer to Reagan National so
they can use one of the GA airports in the capital area!"
Boyer told the committee members that the air traffic control
system was never designed to do the things the ADIZ is forcing
pilots and air traffic controllers to do. He quoted the National
Air Traffic Controllers Association, saying, "Simply put, the
Washington ADIZ creates an unworkable situation for both pilots and
controllers. The ATC system is being asked to perform a function
for which it is not designed and for which it lacks the capacity.
It creates confusion for both pilots and controllers. Proper
resources have not been allocated to provide equipment and
procedures to meet the objective, and ultimately there is no
evidence to suggest that the intended goal is achieved."
Boyer drove home his point by playing a tape of a confused
exchange between a pilot trying to operate in the ADIZ and a
controller trying to explain why the pilot needed to be talking to
Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) remarked
that she had been unaware of the strain the ADIZ placed on air
traffic controllers, and asked Transportation Security
Administration acting Administrator Adm. David Stone (who also
testified) what had been done to alleviate that strain. When Stone
said he would have to report back to the committee, Del. Norton
formally requested that subcommittee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.)
convene a future hearing on the ADIZ ATC issue.
Boyer also told the panel about the personal cost of the ADIZ,
relating the story of a flight instructor who is facing a job loss
because of the inflexible ADIZ rules. Approaching an airport within
the ADIZ, the instructor's student mistakenly thought that an ATC
clearance to change frequency also meant clearance to change from
the discrete transponder code that is mandatory for operations
within the ADIZ. The instructor did not notice the student had
changed the transponder to 1200, and so was completely surprised
when the FAA announced its intention to suspend the instructor's
license for 30 days. The young CFI, who is already paying off
thousands in student loans for an aviation degree is now also faced
with legal fees to defend against the suspension.
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) asked Boyer how many intentional
violations of the ADIZ have been documented. None, replied Boyer,
who added that the FAA has to assign a lawyer to deal with every
unintentional violation. "It's like prosecuting the jaywalkers when
the bank down the street's being robbed," Boyer told Boswell.
Original security justification for ADIZ no longer exists
The ADIZ was established during the run-up to hostilities with
Iraq, at a time of heightened national threat level alert status.
It provided an additional buffer, beyond the existing 15 n.m.
"no-fly" flight restricted zone (FRZ) around the nation's capital.
Another ADIZ was established over New York City at approximately
the same time, as was a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over
With the end of major military action in Iraq, the national
threat level alert status was lowered, and the restrictions over
New York City and Chicago were lifted. But not the
Baltimore-Washington ADIZ. It remains in effect 11 months after the
others were rescinded.
"Rescinding the ADIZ doesn't mean that the National Capitol
Region is unprotected," Boyer said in his prepared testimony [link
to prepared testimony]. "In fact, there would remain in place, a
Special Flight Rules Area that prohibits general aviation
operations within a 15-mile radius of airspace around the nation's
Capitol. This 15-mile 'no-fly' zone has been in place since 9/11
and has proven to provide an appropriate level of airspace
protection, without unnecessarily restricting general aviation
Boyer also reminded the aviation subcommittee members that the
FAA had not yet fulfilled a requirement that they, the members
themselves, had put into law. FAA is required- to report to
Congress on the continued need for the Baltimore-Washington ADIZ
and the steps the agency had taken to mitigate operational
problems. Reading from the bill itself, Boyer said, "If an ADIZ is
in effect on the date of the enactment of this Act - by the way the
date was December 12, 2003 - the Administrator shall transmit an
initial report not later than 30 days after such enactment.
"I ask the Committee, have you received such a report? I think
Chairman Mica, too, wanted to know when the Committee would see
the required report, asking Adm. Stone if he knew when it would be
ready. At the end of the hearing, Mica indicated that if the report
is not in the Committee's hands soon, there may be a separate
hearing called on the ADIZ.
"College Park Airport is our Reagan National, and needs to be
set free" For decades before the September 11 terrorist attacks,
the majority of GA pilots (flying single- and twin-piston engine
aircraft) with business in Washington landed at College Park
Airport (CGS). With it's proximity to Washington's Metro (subway
system), College Park provided easy access without adding to
congestion at Reagan National.
Since then, only pilots based at College Park, or at Potomac
Airport or Washington Executive/Hyde Field, prior to the attacks
and who pass extensive security checks are permitted to use the
facilities. The restrictions have crippled all three
"College Park has seen a 92 percent decrease in operations," said
Boyer. "Two airport businesses have closed. A multi-decade flying
club based on the airport has ceased operations. Gross revenue for
the current year is down 54 percent from 2000. At Hyde Field, only
35 percent of the aircraft remain from pre 9/11 days. Potomac
Airfield is down to 80-based aircraft, with job losses experienced
by nearly every tenant at the Airfield."
Besides Boyer and Stone, the panel testifying included James
Bennett of the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, James
Coyne of the National Air Transportation Association, the National
Business Aviation Association's Shelley Longmuir, Elizabeth
Haskins, President and CEO of Signature Flight Services, the GA FBO
at Reagan National, and Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the General
Aviation Manufacturers Association.