Despite some 20,000 negative comments and calls to abolish the Washington, D.C., air defense identification zone (ADIZ), a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill resulted in little progress in making flying in or near the large block of airspace less onerous for general aviation pilots.
The ADIZ now covers 3,700 sq mi that closely follow the Washington-Baltimore Class B airspace, and the FAA has proposed making it a permanent special flight rules area.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) gathered representatives from the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and the FAA along with AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association, as well as Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), chairman of the Senate aviation subcommittee, to discuss abolishing the ADIZ.
“I remain confused and frustrated about why there has been so much effort focused on restricting GA access to the Washington, D.C., airspace with little or no justification for it,” said Inhofe, a high-time GA pilot. “Normally, I am in the role of defending national security efforts taken by the administration, but the series of decisions surrounding the ADIZ have me baffled, and I would like you to explain to me why your actions on the ADIZ are justified.”
The security officials emphasized their concern about protecting key people and buildings from aerial attack, but they rely on the military to do that.
The commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) said his radar operators and fighter pilots would prefer a 150-nm-radius ADIZ to give them enough time and distance to identify and react to hostile aircraft.
Inhofe specifically chastised the FAA for not submitting congressionally mandated reports justifying the ADIZ and recommending operational improvements. AOPA has claimed there is a $43 million annual loss in regional economic activity because of the ADIZ.
Meanwhile, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said in its August internal newsletter that the right course of action would be for the agencies to abolish the ADIZ and continue using and refining procedures that relate to the flight restricted zone 15 DME from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
After last month’s meeting with security officials, AOPA president Phil Boyer observed, “It was clear that the defense and security agencies are pretty entrenched on what they want for the ADIZ, but they were also willing to listen, at least when called to Capitol Hill by prominent U.S. senators.”
But former Transportation Security Administration boss David Stone told AIN earlier this year that the ADIZ surrounding the national capital area likely will not shrink or disappear unless the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree to provide combat air patrols over Washington around the clock to protect likely terror targets.