With nearly 20,000 comments received on the proposal to make the Washington, D.C., air defense identification zone (ADIZ) permanent, the FAA will hold two public meetings this month to give pilots, airport managers and others a chance to present their views on the proposal.
Although the ADIZ was originally established as a temporary precaution around Washington before the invasion of Iraq two-and-a-half years ago, the FAA has proposed making it permanent. It would be called the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area special flight rules area and would closely mimic all of the Washington-Baltimore area Class B airspace.
It requires identification of all flight operations within the airspace, including pattern work and touch-and-goes. Inside the ADIZ is a flight-restricted zone with a radius of approximately 15 nm from the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport VOR/DME.
General aviation groups are united in opposition to the plan, first revealed in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in early August. The NPRM set November 2 as the deadline to comment on the proposal, but Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later extended it to February 6.
GA is not alone in opposing the SFRA. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association commented that the ADIZ is dangerous, expensive and unjustified. And before Mineta’s announcement, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure requested that the comment period be extended and that the agency hold one or more public hearings.
The panel also recommended that the FAA invite Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to facilitate a better understanding of the operational challenges the ADIZ causes. The FAA said representatives from both the DOD and DHS will attend both public meetings.
“This represents the first time since 9/11 that security officials and the FAA will attend public meetings together about airspace issues,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer. “The government will finally hear it from the people in their own words.”
The FAA wants to hear specifics from pilots, including how much the ADIZ has reduced their flying, the extent of time and revenue lost for pilots forced to fly longer routes because of the ADIZ and whether the ADIZ has caused a loss of income.
The public meetings are scheduled for January 12 at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, Md., and January 18 at the Airport Marriott in Dulles, Va. The meetings at both locations will run between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and resume at 6:30 p.m. and continue until 9 p.m.
Among the concerns from the general aviation community is that implementation of a permanent ADIZ in the nation’s capital area will lead to a proliferation of additional ADIZs.
When the 9/11 Commission issued its first “report card” early last month, it gave the government a B- for homeland airspace defense. The commission noted that there is “no overarching plan to secure airspace outside the national capital region.”
“That’s most ominous, because what ‘secures’ the national capital region is the [ADIZ],” said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior v-p of government and technical affairs. “I’m not sure which is more distressing–that the commission thinks the Washington, D.C., ADIZ works or that it thinks the model should be applied elsewhere.”
Cebula continued, “What we have seen before with these kinds of reports is a knee-jerk reaction to do something–anything–to prove that you’re doing something. And the easiest thing for them to do would be to create more ADIZs.”
New ‘Permanent’ TFR
To add further insult, the day before Thanksgiving the FAA issued a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over St. Michaels, Md., because vice president Dick Cheney is buying a home in the area. However, unlike the TFRs over the vice president’s residence in Jackson Hole, Wyo., this TFR will be in effect all the time, even when Cheney is not visiting. And the FAA has indicated to AOPA that the agency will be working on establishing a prohibited area over the Maryland residence, similar to the prohibited area over Camp David, Md.
The one-nm-radius TFR extends up to 1,500 feet agl and abuts the ADIZ. It will remain in effect “until further notice” regardless of whether the vice president is in residence. Typical vice presidential travel-related TFRs are limited to the times Cheney will be in the area and cover a three-nm radius and extend to 3,000 feet agl.
“Prohibited airspace has not been established at any of the vice president’s temporary or private residences outside Washington, D.C.,” said Boyer. “The time-limited TFRs that Cheney receives when he travels or stays at Jackson Hole provide adequate security.”
In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey objecting to the St. Michaels TFR, Boyer maintained that the TFR is inconsistent with the FAA’s own regulation on TFRs and was issued with no opportunity for comments by the affected community. AOPA wants the agency to replace the TFR with a notam similar to that used for nuclear power plants, dams, bridges and other critical infrastructure.
In a note written on the letter, Boyer asked Blakey, “How far must the security people take the FAA?”