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).

James Fallows - [ASW note: The writer, a private pilot, had an editorial along these lines in The Washington Post on Nov. 2, titled "Restricting Airspace - And Common Sense."]

"Like many other such responses ... the logic behind [the ADIZ] has not stood up well to the passing years. The ADIZ has the worst features of many other stop-gap measures: it does nothing to impede attackers genuinely determined to do harm, while it inconveniences large numbers of ordinary civilians. Like the color-coded chart and the 30-minute seating rule, it should be retired.

"The ADIZ is ineffective because its protections would be laughably easy for a determined attacker to evade. A pilot needs to call before taking off to file an ADIZ plan, and then get a [transponder] code before entering the airspace. But security officials have no way of knowing whether a person who made the original call actually is the person he or she claims to be; or whether they are the same person who is taking off in the airplane; or whether the airplane requesting to enter the airspace has the tail number that was filed for a clearance. The 'safety' provisions of all these clearances is purely symbolic - on the order of people who have to fill out their names on a 'security' log before entering a building, in front of a guard who never bothers to read the names. If a small aircraft really were intent on causing harm in Washington, the ADIZ would do nothing to deter it. It would be stopped, with or without the ADIZ, by other means.

"While doing virtually nothing to slow down an intruder, the ADIZ is nonetheless cumbersome for all normal users of the airspace. ... An ADIZ clearance is the only flight plan in American airspace that cannot be entered by computer; it has to be done over the telephone, often with very long delays. (The logical reason for requiring voice contact is hard to understand. Is it to hear that the pilot has an accent?) The rule makes no distinction between big, fast jet planes and tiny, slow general aviation aircraft."

Phil Boyer, President, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) - "The current ATC [air traffic control] infrastructure was designed and staffed to control only those aircraft flying under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), which historically represent approximately 33 percent of the total number of aircraft in the airspace. In 2003, however, when the ADIZ was hastily implemented, the number of aircraft that ATC had to control tripled, since flight plans would now be required for all aircraft. The flight plan requirement has increased the workload for controllers by approximately 2,000 operations per day, and consequently often diverts controllers from their primary responsibility of IFR traffic separation. ...

"If the temporary ADIZ cannot be eliminated, AOPA recommends an alternative approach that would eliminate or replace the ADIZ procedural requirements for aircraft that weigh 6,000 pounds or less, and that limit their speed to 160 knots indicated or less. Due to their small size and limited cargo- carrying capacity, these aircraft are the least likely candidates for use by terrorists. Under this alternative, the FAA would retain all existing requirements within the FRZ, but would apply the existing ADIZ requirements only to larger, faster aircraft. On special notice from the FAA, during high threat periods, the requirements applicable to heavier, faster aircraft could be extended to lighter, slower, exempted aircraft until the threat level is reduced."

Michael Truffer - "While the greater Washington, D.C., area certainly contains many national assets, a great many other national assets are located in other parts of the county. Should we impose permanent flight restrictions on those areas, too?"

Oxnard Airport Association, Md. - "General aviation poses no more of a threat to national security than an RV, SUV, rental truck, or even the family van. Yet general aviation is continually singled out as a possible threat. Large vehicles can carry many times the amount of explosives as a small plane but they are allowed to travel freely in any city, including Washington, D.C."

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