Life In The ADIZ

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Pilots, Businesses, Officials Learn To Cope...

Nancy Lynn, an aerobatic instructor out of Bay Bridge Airport in Maryland -- and inside the D.C. ADIZ -- told AVweb that on March 8 she waited 90 minutes for an open phone line to the Potomac TRACON to obtain the clearance and code required to fly from her non-towered home field. Others suffered a similar fate as the first decent VFR weekend flying day since imposition of the ADIZ brought out hundreds of sky-starved pilots. One week later, it seems the FAA and perhaps the military are getting used to the capital's restrictions, which is good -- officials in at least one other U.S. city have announced intent to restrict airspace if the country goes to war. The New York City Police Department announced this weekend that, in the case of war, heightened security measures, including "limited access to city airspace," could take effect. The complete plan, dubbed "Operation Atlas," would cost an estimated $5 million per week, a cost the city hopes the federal government would absorb. Hopefully lessons will be learned from D.C. After the weekend of the 8th, various club and type chat rooms lit up with complaints. This Saturday, however, was a different story, Lynn reported. "I had to phone three times. On the third try I got through. It took about three minutes," she said. Although the weather on this past weekend was just as good, Lynn said it was her impression that far fewer GA planes were in the air than on the previous weekend, which might account for the speedier service.

...FAA Adds More Staff...

The FAA is taking some of the credit for the improvement. Spokesman William Shumann told AVweb that staff have been added at the Potomac TRACON to handle the extra VFR clearances and transponder codes and he's as anxious as any other pilot to see the system functioning as well as it can. Shumann, who recently earned his private certificate, was also flying Saturday. He waited about five minutes for his departure clearances from Leesburg and also had to do a 360 while waiting for permission to re-enter the ADIZ. "Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it gridlock? No," he said. Not all pilots were inconvenienced by the rules, however; some ignored them ... and some apparently met "Huntress." Shumann said the FAA tallied 38 violations of the ADIZ rules on the March 8 weekend. Virtually all of them were by pilots who were simply ignorant of the restrictions, despite a major PR campaign by the agency, alphabet groups and the media to get the word out. "We're trying to educate pilots but obviously we have missed some," said Shumann. Some of the violators should have known better, however. "A small number were military flights," he said. AVweb received several e-mails from pilots who listened to errant aviators being chastised by Huntress, quite possibly the AWACS plane that polices the capital airspace around the clock. GA pilots who came under Huntress's scrutiny can expect a letter in the mail (and on their file) from the FAA and possibly some kind of sanctions later on. Military justice tends to move a little more quickly in these matters and those jocks who busted the ADIZ rules have probably already seen what the inside of their CO's office looks like.

...Long-Term Solutions Sought

With a war still brewing and the terrorism threat almost certain to rise again, flight restrictions in the D.C. area (and very likely other places) are a fact of life and that's got the FAA, alphabet groups, pilots and industry all pitching in their two cents worth on how GA can survive, or even thrive, in the new world of TFRs, ADIZs and FRZs (Flight Restricted Zones). "It's a challenge, but we believe we'll be able to handle it," said the FAA's Shumann. Nancy Lynn agrees, saying it's up to pilots to adapt. "Ok, this is the way it is, now let's make the best of it," she said, adding that the various hoops she has to jump through to get her Extra 300 into the air are "no big deal." Bay Bridge Airport Manager John Kirby said his airport, the aviation businesses and the whole community have been hit hard by the new rules and he wants a voice in what happens in the future. "We would like to be brought into the decision-making process." AOPA has weighed in with recommendations on how to smooth operations in the ADIZ and others are sure to follow.