Washington, D.C. ADIZ becomes permanent

 - December 29, 2008, 7:16 AM

The FAA released its final rule on December 15 making the Washington, D.C. air defense identification zone (ADIZ)–which was imposed in February 2003 as a “temporary” flight restriction (TFR) area in the runup to the invasion of Iraq–a permanent fixture. It will go into effect sometime next month.

The Washington ADIZ–the only such zone within the borders of the U.S.–will be replaced by the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA). The SFRA consists of a 30-nm radius centered on the Washington Reagan National Airport Vortac from the surface to 18,000 feet msl. It also includes a 60-nm outer ring in which pilots must observe an airspeed limit.

“It’s extremely disappointing that the ADIZ–something that was hastily implemented as a temporary measure–has become federal regulation,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive v-p of government affairs.

The change was made despite congressional inquiries, economic studies and more than 22,000 written comments from pilots in opposition to the rule, calling the

ADIZ an unreasonable, burdensome security restriction.

The ADIZ was put into effect in 2003 by notam. While that will go away, pilots flying through the SFRA will need to comply with the same rules they have for years. Anyone who wilfully violates the SFRA will still be subject to criminal penalties. Current special procedures that allow easier access to Leesburg Executive Airport in Leesburg, Va., are not included in the rule and will continue to be controlled by notam.

“Operationally, nothing changes for pilots,” Cebula said. “But issuing an ADIZ final rule is a concern because a temporary flight restriction was imposed without consulting airspace users, and later made ‘permanent’ with no documented justification.”

The FAA and security officials have never provided a specific, intelligence-based threat assessment to justify to Congress or the pilot community the design and procedures required in the ADIZ. Congress had called on security officials numerous times to testify about the ADIZ, whether it was necessary and the economic impact it was having on airports in the area.

AOPA commissioned an economic study in 2005 that showed that 10 of the 13 airports analyzed inside the ADIZ were losing about $43 million annually in wages, revenue, taxes and local spending.

The Washington ADIZ originally encompassed all Washington/Baltimore Class B airspace, giving it the shape of “Mickey Mouse” ears. That was later shrunk to the 30-nm radius of the DCA VOR/DME. AOPA later lobbied for the ADIZ to be further reduced to a 20-nm radius or eliminated outright because the govern- ment has never provided evidence that the ADIZ has resulted in any measurable increase in security.

The FAA is requiring that pilots who fly within 60 miles of the VOR/DME take special ADIZ awareness online training, to be completed by February 9. “While this is a final rule,” Cebula said, “circumstances and conditions evolve, and rules can be changed.”