FAA hears from constituents on D.C. no-fly rule

Several lawmakers have forwarded constituent mail opposing permanent implementation of the airspace restrictions around Washington, D.C., to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The constituents argue that the no-fly zone is unnecessary and hurts smaller airports.

In the last few months, Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate panel punts Mueller protection bill to next week Steyer endorses de León in bid to unseat Feinstein Amid struggle for votes, GOP plows ahead with Cabinet picks MORE (D-Calif.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.); Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ralph HallRalph Moody HallGOP fights off primary challengers in deep-red Texas Most diverse Congress in history poised to take power Lawmakers pay tribute to Rep. Ralph Hall MORE (R-Texas); and House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) have sent letters to  FAA officials on behalf of constituents who take issue with the restrictions in the space known as the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

“The office received about seven constituent letters on this subject. … We have not yet received a response for the FAA,” said Davis spokesman Aaron Hunter. “Congresswoman Davis recognizes the need for a secure airspace over the nation’s capital, yet wanted the FAA to be aware of the potential impact their decision will have on private pilots.”

“She felt it was her duty to forward on the views of her constituents,” he added.

Private pilots also have criticized ADIZ for its severity. The time for public comment on the proposed rulemaking on the air restriction was initially set to end Nov. 2 to allow pilots and concerned citizens time to comment on the restrictions; however, the date was extended until Feb. 6, in response to public requests. Since the comment period opened in August, more than 19,000 comments have been submitted to the Department of Transportation. A series of public hearings will be held Jan. 12 and Jan. 18.

The ADIZ encompasses all the land within an irregularly shaped boundary drawn at least 15 miles and as many as 38 miles around the triangle formed by Baltimore-Washington International, Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports. At its widest, the no-fly area is 90 miles across.

The restriction was introduced as a part of Operation Liberty Shield to “enhance homeland security during the buildup toward the war in Iraq” in February 2003, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.

Karen Lightfoot, a spokeswoman for Waxman, said he is keeping an eye on the ADIZ situation.

Jo Maney, a spokeswoman for Dreier, said her boss simply was forwarding concerns of constituents to the appropriate agency.

“It was standard constituent service,” she said.

Feinstein had not taken a position on the ADIZ, but her office was trying to respond to a constituent complaint, according to her spokesman Howard Gantman.

In addition to federal lawmakers’ concern, local governments have also expressed their displeasure with the restrictions.

The Leesburg, Va., town council has passed a motion in support of the withdrawal of the rulemaking proposal and has advocated leaving the restrictions in place until the threat level is reduced, according to Stephen Axeman, chairman of the Leesburg Executive Airport Commission.

“There is very little to no support for the ADIZ in Leesburg,” Axeman said.

Axeman, a pilot himself, said the restrictions are hurting flight schools and airport-related businesses in the region because many citizens do not want the hassle or stress of flying in the restricted airspace.

“It really puts the fright back in flight,” he said.

Chris Dancy, director of media relations for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), located in Frederick, Md., said he has encouraged the group’s 400,000 members to write to the public-comment forum and the public hearings.

“We are communicating in the Baltimore and Washington area and are urging them to take part in the meetings,” Dancy said. “We hope we can make the security agencies think about what they are doing. … The ADIZ is an unnecessary provision.”

Spokesmen for Martinez and Hall did not return requests for comment.