The comment period on the proposal to transform the Washington, D.C., air defense identification zone (ADIZ)–which covers 3,700 sq mi that closely follow the Washington-Baltimore Class B airspace–into the Washington area special flight rules area (SFRA) closed early last month, with the FAA receiving a record 21,380 responses.
The question now becomes what good–if any–will come from the large outpouring of mostly negative comments and two public meetings held in the Washington area in January.
AOPA briefed more than 40 key aides to members of Congress on February 6, the day the comment period closed. The congressional aides help influence the positions that lawmakers take on issues and help them write the legislation.
“We made it clear that their constituents, pilots who vote for their bosses, are deeply concerned about the spread of ADIZs to other parts of the country,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “It’s clear that the incredible number of comments made a huge impression on congressional staffers.”
Congressional and User Support
AOPA lobbyists reiterated the effect of the ADIZ on pilots and businesses, citing a $43 million annual loss in regional economic activity because of the ADIZ. “From the comments, from the public meetings, from the congressional briefings, to the letters from members of Congress themselves, there should be no question in the minds of the FAA and security officials about where pilots stand on the ADIZ,” said Cebula. “It will make a difference.”
Forty members of Congress signed a letter sent to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in October asking for public meetings and an extension of the NPRM comment period.
They also requested that officials from the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security attend the public hearings in January because “reviewing written comments alone will not allow the FAA and other federal security officials a full opportunity to pose questions and explore alternatives.” Not one federal panel member asked a question at the January meeting at Dulles.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a GA pilot with more than 11,000 hours, expressed concern that the FAA is proposing to make the ADIZ permanent without addressing the necessary operational concerns to ease the burdens on pilots and air traffic controllers.
He said the Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act President Bush signed into law in December 2003 required that the FAA provide Congress with justification for the ADIZ every 60 days. “To my knowledge, we are still waiting for these justifications,” he wrote.
In addition to the comments and the two public meetings, AOPA president Phil Boyer said that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, has promised him that Congress will hold hearings on the ADIZ/SFRA plan. Stevens is one of the most powerful and longest-serving members of the Senate.
It is not just pilots, local government officials and businesses that oppose the ADIZ and the proposed SFRA. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the ADIZ is dangerous, expensive and unjustified. A presenter at a January meeting called it a “recipe for a midair” because of the mix of pilots and student pilots circling the Casanova VOR in Virginia waiting for a clearance into the ADIZ.
The city of Leesburg, Va., which owns and operates Leesburg Executive Airport inside the ADIZ, “strongly urged” the FAA to withdraw the NPRM. The city also “strongly urged” the FAA to reduce restrictions on airspace over Leesburg to the lowest level practicable under current security requirements and consider the economic and political effects of the restrictions that reduce activity at the airport.