Legislation To Be Considered After Recess
stands ready to make security officials explain the continuing need
for the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)
when it returns from its summer recess after Labor Day. Included in
the FAA Reauthorization bill is AOPA-backed language that requires
the secretary of Transportation to report every 60 days on why the
ADIZ is still needed and what steps the FAA is taking to smooth
operations within the zone.
"We've used this tactic before," said AOPA Senior Vice President
of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "At the end of
2001, some three months after the September 11 terrorist attacks,
similar language requiring the government to justify the continuing
existence of enhanced Class B airspace led to its eventual
"Without a specific and credible threat, the ADIZ has outlived
its wartime need," Cebula continued. "For over a year, the 15-nm
Special Flight Rule Area (SFRA) around the Washington Monument
provided adequate protection for the nation's capital from any
generalized terrorist threat. All the ADIZ does is create excessive
workload for air traffic controllers, foment aggravation, if not
outright anger, among pilots, and cost taxpayers millions of
dollars to enforce."
AOPA has been collecting anecdotal evidence of problems caused
by the ADIZ and its increasingly common cousin, the 30-nm
Presidential movement temporary flight restriction (TFR).
One of the most disturbing stories came from a medevac
helicopter pilot who operates in the ADIZ. "We have discrete
transponder codes, so only an initial radio contact is necessary.
However, we have had numerous problems with the initial contact. On
this date, I had to circle two minutes over the hospital I lifted
off from with a patient on board. It delayed precious minutes for
"It stands to reason that if a patient is being
transported by helicopter, time is of the essence," said AOPA
President Phil Boyer. "If the ADIZ system can't even accommodate
approved and medically necessary flight operations, then something
is terribly wrong."
Another pilot told AOPA
that he had to explain to a flight service station briefer outside
the Baltimore-Washington area how to file an ADIZ flight plan.
Other pilots tell of being stuck either on the ground waiting to
take off or in the air waiting to land while air traffic
controllers tried to deal with the crush of VFR traffic the system
was never designed to handle. One pilot put it succinctly: "Total
time on fone 25 minutes. Total time for actual flight 25 minutes"
With President Bush now on the road campaigning both for his
legislative agenda and for reelection, more and more of the country
is getting a taste of what the ADIZ is like with the frequent 30-nm
Presidential TFRs that precede the President's arrival.
Following the President's recent trips to Dallas and Houston,
AOPA received numerous comments from pilots who talked about
overwhelmed flight service stations and frustrated pilots giving up
and going home. But the TFR also hit businesses hard. "I work at a
local fight school and pilot shop as dispatcher/store manager,"
said one instrument-rated pilot. "President Bush's visit to Dallas
closed us down from 1 p.m. through the rest of our business hours.
Our estimated lost revenue just from flights we had to cancel was
in excess of $3,000. To a small flight school, this is a big
"No one, least of all AOPA or pilots, is suggesting that the
government should not take action to prevent terrorism or protect
the President," said Boyer. "But just because you can impose or
continue security-related flight restrictions doesn't address the
question of whether you should.
"The ADIZ justification language in the FAA Reauthorization bill
will force security officials to step back and take a critical look
at the need for the restriction. And hopefully, it will make the
same officials rethink the need for the huge Presidential
Ed's note: Consider the FAA's dilemma over what to do about
protecting candidates on road trips in the coming election