Pilots speak out against Washington ADIZ

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “”Don’t take a bad idea and make it permanent.”” — Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

“”This is an idiot’s game. All we are doing is punishing law-abiding citizens.”” — Jim Coyne, president, National Air Transportation Association (NATA).

“”Do rules or little lines on a chart really stop terrorists?””—David Wartofsky, manager, Potomac Airfield.

“”The ADIZ has effectively shut down helicopter operations in the Washington/Baltimore area.”” – Matt Zuccaro, president, Helicopter Association International (HAI).

“”The County Council urges the FAA to withdraw the proposal to make the ADIZ permanent.”” — Dennis Boykin, vice chair of the Leesburg, Va., airport commission.

These are just a few of the comments made at one of four hearings held by the FAA in January to hear comments from the public about the proposal to make the massive Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around the Washington/Baltimore area permanent. At each of the sessions near Dulles Airport and previous meetings held closer to Baltimore, hundreds of pilots attended to applaud speakers who pointed out the damage the ADIZ is foisting not only on pilots but on the economic condition of the area.

Zuccaro said the ADIZ shut down a commercial helicopter service between downtown New York City and Washington, at a loss of $75 million.

Walt Baldwin, president of Helo Air of Richmond, Va., noted that before the ADIZ, his company had four real competitors. Now he has none and has had to reduce his own staff.

The Leesburg airport has lost a flight school and based aircraft, Boykin told the panel. The airport previously had 50 on a waiting list for tie-down spaces, now there are 10 vacancies, he added. Low-lead fuel sales were down 22% in 2003 and an additional 4% in 2004. The FBO laid off 60% of its line staff. “”We’re talking about interstate commerce,”” Boykin said.

AOPA’s Boyer said that 20,000 comments had been received by the docket, 90% of which have come from outside the Washington/Baltimore area. It is the fear of these pilots, he added, that a permanent ADIZ in Washington could be the forerunner of similar restraints and rules at 29 other places around the country.

At the hearing near Baltimore, William Finagin, whose company sells Aviat aircraft, said since the ADIZ has been in effect his company has lost $1 million a year. A pilot from county-owned Montgomery County Airport in Gaithersburg (KGAI) said one FBO has closed because of loss of business.

Scott Proudfoot, speaking for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said the ADIZ is “”a burden on users and controllers.””

Numerous pilots pointed out how the added burden on air traffic controllers takes them from the primary responsibilities of separating traffic and poses a danger by having aircraft mill around outside the ADIZ waiting for identification and permission to enter. Pointing out the problems, one pilot commented: “”I’m beginning to wonder if controllers are tired of us and want us to go away. My transponder works everywhere else, but controllers here have a hard time reading it.”” Many speakers detailed how the circuitous routes and circling costs them significant amounts. One pilot reported “”an hour’s extra flight time in my airplane costs me more than $100.”” Making the same trip a couple times a week since the ADIZ has been effect has resulted in one pilot claiming additional expenses of more than $8,000.

The panel was made up of officials from the FAA, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, Department of Defense, Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Protection. A few of the panel members occasionally took notes of comments made by various speakers. None, however, asked any questions.

The FAA held the hearings and extended the deadline for submitting comments to the docket after strong requests from AOPA. Deadline for docket comments is Feb. 6. Although the rule-making comes under the jurisdiction of the FAA, that agency has only a minor say in its disposition. Other offices and agencies charged with security will have inputs with heavy weight on the final decision.

Speculation here is there might be some changes in the ADIZ from what now exists, but there is only a remote chance that it will be withdrawn.

Boyer told the panel many members of Congress are concerned about how the ADIZ is affecting business and air transportation. “”Let’s resolve this before Congress gets involved,”” he urged.

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

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