DCA Reopening Efforts Continue, In Spite Of...

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D.C. Incursion Aftermath

Contrary to the initially pessimistic mood of those lobbying for a return of GA to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Wednesday's airspace incursion over Washington, D.C., may not seriously damage their efforts. After taking a deep breath (or perhaps just catching it after fleeing one of the evacuated buildings) key congressional supporters of a qualified reopening for DCA told The Washington Post they see no reason to put the brakes on the initiative. "It's time to get with it," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee On Homeland Security, the latest of three House committees to draft bills calling for the resumption of GA flights to DCA. Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has also prepared a bill, said he doubts the incident will get in the way of passage. "I don't believe it will have a dampening effect on the Hill," he said.

The politicians' comments must have heartened aviation leaders who feared the worst for the DCA issue and other security-related concerns in Washington when news of the incursion broke. "It has certainly deflated my optimism -- at least momentarily -- for the fight to improve the ADIZ," Andy Cebula, AOPA's government affairs specialist, said in the hours following the dramatic incident. AOPA President Phil Boyer wondered how pilots living so near to Washington (Lancaster County, Pa.) could not be aware of the flight restriction and he, too, wondered what sort of reaction (or overreaction) would result. "At least for the short term, they really made things difficult for all the other pilots in this country who obey the rules. And after all of the hard work that we've put in, that's more than frustrating." But even if the DCA legislation passes, don't expect a flood of GA traffic into DCA. Planes using the airport will have to obey strict security precautions, including having an armed marshal on board. The National Business Aviation Association, one of the main champions of GA access to DCA, avoided linking it with the incursion. The NBAA, in a statement on its Web site, said simply the chain of events shows "the system works."