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Thu, Apr 27, 2006

AOPA Responds To Arizona UAV Accident

Calls On Gov't To Remove TFR While UAVs Are Grounded

Stating that an accident Tuesday involving a US Customs and Border Patrol Predator B UAV reinforces their position that UAVs must meet manned aircraft safety standards, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is calling on the FAA to revoke TFRs currently in place along the US-Mexico border while the fleet is grounded as investigators determine why the unmanned plane crashed.

"This crash highlights the safety concerns we've voiced all along," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "The FAA should not permit UAV operations until they are certified to the same level of safety as manned aircraft."

"Thankfully, in this accident no one in the air or on the ground was hurt," Cebula added. "But just think that if a pilot had been flying legally under the TFR and the UAV hit the aircraft from behind and above -- the pilot would have had no chance to see and avoid the uncontrolled UAV."

As Aero-News reported, the Predator B went down in southern Arizona Tuesday morning, while it was conducting operations along the US border with Mexico. The Border Patrol uses the UAVs to monitor illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border, as well as aiding in catching drug smugglers.

AOPA has been a strong opponent to UAVs over US skies. The organization has alerted Congress to the threat UAVs pose to GA pilots and voiced members' opposition to restricting civilian access to airspace for UAV operations.

The UAV TFR stretches across 300 nautical miles of Arizona and New Mexico and extends from 14,000 feet MSL to 16,000 feet MSL.

The airspace was cordoned off to prevent a midair collision because UAVs cannot see and avoid other aircraft. But when the UAV's operators lose contact, no one is in control to bring it safely out of the TFR and away from other aircraft.

FMI: www.aopa.org, www.cbp.gov

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