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The Left Seat

by Jim Slade


There is no such thing as a "temporary" law. For instance, the income tax was supposed to be temporary and look where that got us. The truth is that, like the camel who gets its nose in the tent, when the government gets something going, it usually forgets about "temporary." That's why the column that follows is so important to aviation--General Aviation, in particular. For this issue, I'm turning over the right seat to Phil Boyer, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association (AOPA). The letter he wrote was directed primarily to pilots in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, but as you will's important to all of us.

Phil Boyer: As many of you are already aware, the FAA is proposing a new rule that would make permanent the current "temporary" airspace restrictions in our area. This special message is to inform you what AOPA is doing in response to the FAA's recent notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), and keep you updated on our extensive plans, already under way, to challenge the proposal.

All of us who fly in this area know that the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) was created over a weekend in February 2003, in response to a heightened national threat level. It was a sudden move and was explained as a temporary restriction. But when the government later reduced the national threat level, the ADIZ remained. AOPA has been working to have the ADIZ eliminated - or reduced - ever since.

The FAA's NPRM is not a surprise (we have expected it for several months), but it is as ill conceived as the original ADIZ.

I personally want you to know that we have and are continuing to dedicate enormous resources to make very clear to the FAA, TSA, Department of Homeland Security, and Congress all of our concerns about the ADIZ and its onerous effects on D.C. - area pilots. In a series of uncanny coincidences, our efforts over the past two years to counter the ADIZ have been frustrated by events like terrorist warnings, increased security levels, and high-profile airspace violations, such as the "Smoketown 150," that caused the evacuation of the Capitol on May 11. Despite ongoing pressure from pilots and AOPA, the ADIZ still exists. And now the FAA wants to make it permanent.

The only "good news" in all this is that the federal process of rulemaking allows individuals from across the country to formally oppose an FAA proposal. This is important to all pilots because, if the ADIZ is made permanent, every pilot in the country flying in or near Class B airspace (there are 29 other such areas) could face the same restrictions. This is not a vague threat: As this is being written the New York Class B airspace has become an ADIZ.

By far, general aviation's greatest strength is AOPA's 406,000 members. And because there is strength in numbers - strength and power of opinion - we intend to use your voices to fight this onerous and unnecessary airspace restriction.

The FAA needs to hear from you so they fully understand how difficult it is to operate in and near the ADIZ - to file a flight plan by telephone with flight service (FSS), then obtain a discrete transponder code, and establish and maintain communication with air traffic control - a process the FAA is terribly understaffed and ill-equipped to handle.

In the coming weeks you will receive a nationwide appeal that will be mailed to all AOPA members asking them - and you - to comment directly to the FAA and to members of Congress before the November 2 close of the ADIZ NPRM comment period. Our own ongoing efforts and asking our members to help in this way are but two parts of our strategy.

Your association has engaged two of Washington, D.C.'s most powerful lobbying organizations to complement our efforts. These preeminent firms include - and have working on your behalf - a former secretary for the Department of Transportation (a cabinet-level position) as well as a former deputy assistant undersecretary of the TSA, the former general counsel for the DOT and its former deputy secretary.

AOPA also has hired a noted expert whose company is currently conducting a comprehensive analysis of the economic impact on pilots, airports, and aviation businesses that have been affected by the ADIZ. We feel this issue is so important that we must use any and all resources available at this time.

All of this is in addition to your association's professional staff in Frederick, Maryland, and Washington that has battled the ADIZ as well as a wide range of other issues that affect your freedom to flyÉand continue to do so on a daily basis. Make no mistake: This is a vital issue for your association.

Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the one-size-fits-all requirements of the ADIZ that completely fail to recognize the stark differences between a 400,000-pound, 400-knot airliner and the far lighter and much slower aircraft that our members fly. Incredibly, there is presently no distinction between these very different aircraft in terms of security, operation, and safety issues.

Be prepared to respond to our call for action.

I hope this update accomplishes its intended purpose -- to let you and all D.C.-area pilots know of the ongoing AOPA strategy and tactics uniquely supported by the upcoming Pilot Alert to all members throughout the country.

Thank you...


Thank you, Phil. We're aware that the threat is not confined to the DC region and/or New York. Mayor Daley of Chicago would like his own ADIZ. Probably, every Mayor in the land has his fantasies as well.

Temporary, hell..

Jim Slade

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