Bet on it: Washington ADIZ will become permanent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite strong opposition from the general aviation community, I predict the proposal to make the ADIZ around the nation’s capital permanent will become official after the community has had an opportunity to comment. Deadline for submitting comments is Nov. 2.

More than 2,000 comments had been received by press time, universally in opposition. Some 1,200 arrived after the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) sent an urgent request to members to send in their opposition comments.

Some of the comments call the proposal a “”knee jerk”” response. Others say it is an action “”merely for the sake of appearing to do something.”” Many opponents declare that making the ADIZ permanent will not make it more secure than it is by being temporary, and a large number of the comments point to trucks in the streets and backpacks on buses and subways as posing greater threats. One person stressed that the ADIZ has been “”a spectacular failure.””

Perhaps these latter thoughts are part of the reason why the ADIZ will become permanent. It has been a failure in that it has not kept unidentified aircraft from entering the area. The boundaries have been violated literally hundreds of times by wandering general aviation airplanes. All too often it has been necessary to scramble military aircraft to chase the errant flights out of the zone. Only the most blatant violations have received media attention.

Are the frequent incursions into the ADIZ completely the fault of careless or uninformed pilots? Not totally. The shape and boundaries of the ADIZ can lead to confusion. Also, radar and air traffic controllers aren’t making it any easier. Radar in the area has “”lost”” various aircraft for minutes at a time, causing controllers to have tense moments. FAA says it is updating some of its radar equipment, which should ease this problem to some extent.

The airline industry also favors the expansion of ADIZ areas around different airports because fewer airplanes mean less competition for runways and airspace. So watch the Washington one become permanent and an expansion to other areas.

President Bush and others in government have been trying to alert the public that the war on terror — and the strong security measures — will be long and difficult, meaning more and more safety measures in place. Aviation is feeling the brunt of security because it is easier to get under control than trucks, trains and tankers. Several times a week streets are closed off in Washington while officials check out “”suspicious packages.”” Unfortunately, the more successful the security measures are, the more that will be forgotten about the need for them.

Pilots in the United States are not the only ones blundering into controlled airspace. The Flight Safety Foundation reports the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority has undertaken a strategic review of general aviation. This is prompted by an increasing number of aircraft being flown into controlled airspace without clearance. The study will be conducted by a joint industry-government team. Its findings are expected to be released by June 2006. Alex Plant, leader of the review team, commented that “”general aviation is probably far less understood by policy-makers than commercial aviation. This review will help to improve understanding and provide a better evidence base for future policy and regulatory decisions.””

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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