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Thu, Nov 03, 2005

Aero-News Alert: Mineta Promises To Listen On ADIZ

SecTrans Grants ADIZ Comment Extension, Promises Hearings

During an introductory General Session at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Expo in Tampa, Florida, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta announced that he had granted a 90-day extension to the comment period on the Washington, DC, area ADIZ.

Mineta's voice grew stern when he discussed airspace violations, which he described as a near-daily occurrence. "It's an issue of accountability," he said to the audience. which consisted mostly of pilots and people closely aligned with aviation. He blamed the closure of Potomac Airfield on "continued violations," which is the most detailed statement any government official has made on the controversial closing.

He bluntly told the AOPA members to forget about a change in the post-911 security regime; in his view, the changes are permanent. But he agreed to listen.

In an introduction that recapped Mineta's career, and his many connections with aviation (two sons are pilots for Delta and SkyWest; his wife is a retired United flight attendant, and he was a principal author of the General Aviation Revitalization Act), AOPA President Phil Boyer mentioned the 17,682 comments on the Notice of Proposed Rule Making.

Mineta took evident pleasure in correcting Boyer's numbers. "My latest count is 17,912, not 17,682," the Secretary said with a grin. He quipped that he hadn't personally read them all yet (an enormous undertaking).

But then he dropped his bombshell. "I have directed the FAA to reopen the comment period for 90 days," he said, producing spontaneous applause. But he wasn't done.

"There will be a full public meeting," Mineta said, producing another burst of applause. He went on to say that the government will not just be represented by Transportation agencies such as FAA, but that security agencies -- the true, shadowy, and previously unaccountable powers behind the airspace grab -- will be present at the hearing.

After Mineta concluded his remarks, Phil Boyer thanked him, pointing out that the 90 day comment period was longer than the organization had pressed for -- or expected.

This is no commitment to change the ADIZ proposal, but the commitment to listen is an important step. The information on the comment extension and the public hearing (or hearings; AOPA is already pushing to have multiple hearings around the country, not just one in Washington) will be published in the Federal Register.

Instructions to make a comment on the ADIZ are available on AOPA's website at www.aopa.org/adizalert and Aero-News is assured that the Department of Transportation staff are reading -- and tallying -- the comments.

We'll be carrying more from Secretary Mineta's significant speech in real time today, and it will also be featured in tomorrow's Aero-News Special Report Aero-Cast.

FMI: www.dot.gov

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