FAA Proposal to Make D.C. Flight Restrictions Permanent Draws Criticism

The FAA has received more than 18,400 comments from individuals, corporations, airports and industry associations, largely in opposition (e.g., 99 out of 100 submissions).


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has received thousands of comments in opposition to its proposal to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

"It is premature to permanently clap onerous flight restrictions on nearly 2,000 square miles of the East Coast. In the four years since 9/11 - and in the middle of an ongoing war - an aircraft has not been used in a terrorist attack on the U.S.," writes Dennis Smith of Goshen, Indiana.

The ADIZ would be accompanied by an inner area, called a flight restricted zone (FRZ), of approximately a 15 nautical mile (NM) radius covering the capital city itself. Details of the FAA's plan to make permanent the ADIZ put in place following the 9/11 terrorist attacks were outlined in an Aug. 4 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

As the 29-page NPRM argues, "This alternative is preferred because it balances the government's security concerns about a terrorist attack in this area against the costs that would be imposed by more draconian measures" (see ASW, Aug. 15).

The existing ADIZ and its procedures are already too draconian, argue the overwhelming majority of people submitting comments to the docket in response to the NPRM. In fact, the FAA has received more than 18,400 comments from individuals, corporations, airports and industry associations, largely in opposition (e.g., 99 out of 100 submissions). By way of comparison, the FAA received some 6,000 comments on its proposal to not require child restraint systems (see ASW, Sept. 12). Clearly, the FAA's proposed aviation security measures have touched a nerve, so much so that the comment period has been extended to Feb. 6, 2006. A public meeting on security measures to be applied for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area will be convened at a future date yet to be announced.

It is too soon to foretell the FAA's final decision, but it seems fair to say that (1) the FAA will not be the sole arbiter, as the Bush Administration, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense will be involved, and (2) public and industry opposition have figured in other rulemaking activities (in modifying or shortstopping them).

The ultimate decision has nationwide implications, as the ADIZ presently established for the Washington D.C. area could also be applied elsewhere. Below, a sampling of comments the FAA has already received on its proposal for a permanent ADIZ around Washington, D.C.:

Fred Scott - "I object to the proposal ... This new 'National Defense Airspace' (NDA) would permanently expand and replace the current 'TEMPORARY' [ADIZ] and it will include nearly 2,000 square miles and extend to an altitude of 18,000 feet. This NDA will be located above 46 airports, most of which will be effectively closed by the proposed rule. ...

"No aviator I know objects to complying with useful rules for aviation safety, but this proposal - which probably sounds good to non-aviators - makes no useful contribution ...

"Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the government has made numerous upgrades to security systems around the nation's capital, including a new visual warning system that uses lasers to warn pilots away from restricted airspace, anti- aircraft missile batteries, and greatly improved radar coverage. Such measures significantly enhance the protection ... making the ADIZ unnecessary. ...

"The only aircraft used as weapons on our cities have been heavy airliners. These still operate in and out of the ADIZ with impunity, yet harmless light aircraft will be restricted. ...

"As an aviator with 40+ years of experience ... and living in central Virginia where the ADIZ intrudes, I sincerely suggest this NDA airspace proposal is a 'feel-good idea' that should be relegated to the circular file."

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