WASHINGTON, D.C. — Don’t blame the FAA.
The proposal to make the area around the nation’s Capital a permanent “”National Defense Airspace”” was the idea of the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The FAA merely followed instructions.
That’s just one of the many things this proposal brings to the surface. Who is in charge? Does the FAA have authority over aviation? Does the DOD? The DHS? Or the Transportation Security Administration? Maybe it’s Congress which, after all, holds the purse strings. There need to be definitive lines of authority.
The organizations representing GA’s interests have a difficult time figuring out where to take their messages — and this latest proposal is bringing out the fire brigades. Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) started the day before the proposal was officially released in the Federal Register. Phil Boyer, AOPA president, called the present ADIZ operationally unworkable and said the government has failed to assess the impact on pilots, air traffic controllers, airports and businesses. “”No general aviation aircraft has been used in a terrorist attack,”” he said, “”and none of the ADIZ violations has been terrorist-related.””
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) agrees, pointing out that the proposal is not based on anything new to justify making the area permanent.
The notice of proposed rule making does point out some concerns. In April 2003, Waleed bin Attash was arrested when a plot was discovered to crash an explosive-laden small aircraft into the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Documents found in possession of Zacarias Moussaoui when he was arrested outlined use of crop-duster aircraft in terrorist action.
Still, the question remains: Does a potential threat warrant the proposed restrictions and costs? FAA officials say the present ADIZ causes a severe load on air traffic controllers. The number of controllers has already been increased. Over the next 10 years staffing would have to grow, adding $62.12 million to the payroll. Additional workload at the Potomac TRACON will cost another $122.15 million. Flight Service Stations also would have additional burdens costing some $60.64 million over the 10 years.
Cost to airports and pilots will grow, too. There are approximately 150 airports and heliports within the proposed area, which covers nearly 2,000 square miles. Many of these, FAA says, would have fewer operations. The so-called “”DC-3″” — College Park, Hyde Field and Potomac — could be most heavily hit, costing operators and perhaps causing closures. Flight delays, additional staff to handle additional security requirements and a loss of business could cost College Park an estimated $1.8 million annually over the next 10 years, according to FAA officials. The tab at Hyde Field is estimated at $2.19 million annually and at Potomac $2 million. All in all, FAA estimates total quantifiable costs to be $296.6 million over a 10-year period.
Note through all of this the words “”10 years.”” Terror threats and their effects on general aviation are not going away. From here on they will be with us. GA will continue to get the short end of the stick unless some major adjustments are made.
Does the trucking industry, the auto industry, airlines, or any other group that faces legislative or administrative actions spend most of its time explaining what it is and how it functions before getting down to brass tacks on the issue? Bet your sweet bippy it doesn’t! But GA representatives must justify their constituents before they can talk issues. Worst of all the public doesn’t know — or support — GA.
The recent bombings in London, auto bombs in Iraq and the truck bombing in Oklahoma City document a great or greater threat from these than from GA. But the public understands them. If the public understood general aviation, it would be easier to show how GA is affected in this global strife against terrorism. “”Public sentiment is everything,”” said Abraham Lincoln. “”With public sentiment nothing can fail; without public sentiment, nothing can succeed.””
The entire GA community has been lax in getting public support. The different entities have been scrounging for their own survival and have done little to gain public understanding. If the public knew what airports and GA are, there would be fewer complaints from stockholders about businesses buying expensive jets, fewer gripes about airport locations, more people using flight for pleasure, and far fewer fires to douse.
If you want to add your comments to the FAA’s proposed notice, go online to DMS.dot.gov or mail them to Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street S.W., Washington, D.C., 20590-001. Comment deadline is Nov. 2, 2005.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.