D.C. Airports Reel from ADIZ Losses

 - October 31, 2006, 4:39 AM

While debate rages over whether the “temporary” Washington metropolitan area air defense identification zone (ADIZ) should be morphed into a permanent ADIZ, a study of 13 general aviation airports that fall within the restricted airspace shows that they have been hit hard economically and operationally.

Ten of them are losing $43 million per year in wages, revenue, taxes and local spending. Total revenue at the affected airports has dropped $27.5 million since imposition of the ADIZ in 2003. More than 100 jobs have been lost, avgas sales are down by nearly 20 percent, a flight school has closed and many pilots have either stopped flying or have moved their flying out of the area.

The study by Aviation Management Consulting Group and Martin Associates was commissioned by AOPA and was included in its comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking on the permanent ADIZ.

“The study shows that those most affected by the ADIZ are general aviation aircraft owners and pilots, and the businesses that serve this group, even though they pose the least threat,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer. “If the ADIZ is not modified, it could permanently jeopardize the economic viability of GA operations in the Washington, D.C. area.”

The study included an analysis of the 13 airports within the ADIZ (subject airports), 20 airports just outside the ADIZ (perimeter airports), numerous national and regional airports that are similar (comparable airports) to the subject airports, as well as national general aviation trends.

Based on the information obtained and analyzed during the study, according to the two consultants, it is apparent that the subject airports have experienced negative economic effects. While activity levels at airports throughout the nation and particularly those just outside the ADIZ have begun to recover from 9/11, the ADIZ might have hindered the recovery of the airports inside the ADIZ between 2003 and 2004.

“While our analysis indicates that general aviation operations (a takeoff or a landing) at airports on the perimeter of ADIZ have recovered since 9/11, it also indicates that general aviation operations…at airports inside the ADIZ have not recovered,” the consultants said.

In addition, anecdotal evidence “overwhelmingly” suggests that pro-spective student pilots are not learning to fly within the ADIZ or are learning outside the ADIZ, renters are renting less or not at all inside the ADIZ, recreational/pleasure flying has declined within the ADIZ, aviation businesses are receiving less or, in some cases, no visits from clients who flew into airports inside the ADIZ for services, and aircraft used for recreational/pleasure flying are being relocated to airports outside of the ADIZ.

In Maryland, Martin State Airport in Baltimore has lost nearly $7 million each year in local spending. It also reports an annual loss of $15 million in airport revenue. Montgomery County Airpark (GAI), about 20 nm northwest of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), has lost 72 jobs and $2.7 million in local purchasing.

Manassas Regional Airport (HEF) in Virginia reports that business is down by 55 percent and that solo flights are off by 30 percent. Fear of certificate action is keeping pilots grounded and the airport is losing $35,000 a month.

Essex Skypark, three nautical miles southeast of Baltimore, reported operations are down by nearly 50 percent and airport officials believe the bulk is lost transient operations.

Pro Pilots, a large flight school at Leesburg Executive Airport (JYO) in Virginia, nine nautical miles northwest of Washington Dulles International Airport, was forced to close in 2003 because of the dramatic drop in business related to the restrictions, and Congressional Air, a large charter company/FBO at GAI, closed in October 2003.

But some airports such as GAI and JYO have seen increased operations due to jet traffic that originally would have landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, closed to all GA traffic until last month.