Protect, But Don't Prohibit
The AOPA says it strongly opposes an FAA proposal released last
week that would codify flight restrictions in the Washington, DC,
metropolitan area. The restricted area would be designated as
"national defense airspace" and would replace the current air
defense identification zone (ADIZ), covering nearly 2,000 square
miles and extending to an altitude of 18,000 feet.
"AOPA recognizes the necessity to protect the national assets in
the nation's capital. 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 to the FAA's proposal to
make the temporary outer ring of Washington's defensive airspace
— the ADIZ — permanent."
The FAA proposal also reiterated the agency's statutory
authority to, with the appropriate evidence, pursue criminal
prosecution against anyone who "knowingly or willfully violates"
national defense airspace. Current law provides for fines or
imprisonment for up to one year.
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, anti-aircraft missile batteries, and
greatly improved radar coverage. Such measures significantly
enhance the protection offered by the FRZ, making the ADIZ
The Washington, DC, 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 airspace 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 have neither 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
Pilots should submit comments on the proposal before November 2
Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St., SW
Nassif Building, Room PL-401
Washington, DC 20590-001