Rep. Mica pushes for DCA access

 - July 23, 2007, 10:57 AM

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House aviation subcommittee and self-described “persistent bastard,” continues to rail against the lack of action in reopening Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) to most general aviation operations. “There is no good reason that protective security measures, adopted by TSA and approved by the National Security Agency and other agencies, cannot be put in place to reopen DCA to most of general aviation,” said Mica. “I believe that with proper procedures, training, communication and coordination we can outsmart terrorists and restore jobs, economic activity and general aviation both in our capital’s airport and across our nation.”

Expressing frustration at the lack of progress in reopening the airport to GA, Mica said he was “seeking once again, a sound security explanation for the closure of DCA to ‘most’ general aviation flights.” He added that the industry has yet to receive any indication whether its proposals for security procedures at DCA are even being seriously considered.

General aviation did win one small victory, however. Flying in the face of talk that the Washington-area air defense identification zone might be made permanent, the FAA denied Defense Department requests to turn 11 TFRs into prohibited airspace. Instead, the FAA will follow AOPA’s recommendation and convert the existing TFRs over the 11 military installations into national security areas (NSAs), a somewhat less restrictive classification that still preserves the government’s ability to protect the airspace when needed for national security.

According to the Aeronautical Information Manual, an NSA is “airspace of defined vertical and lateral dimensions established at locations where there is a requirement for increased security of ground facilities.” Pilots are requested to voluntarily avoid flying through an NSA. When it is necessary to provide a greater level of security, flight through an NSA can be temporarily prohibited.

NSAs are marked on charts with bold, segmented magenta lines with the legend, “Notice–for reasons of national security, pilots are requested to avoid flight below 7,700 feet msl in this area.” Of course, the altitude varies depending upon the terrain.

“An NSA is preferable to a restricted or prohibited area because it flexible,” said AOPA. “Once a prohibited area is established, it rarely goes away, and pilots lose another chunk of navigable airspace.”