- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2005

A proposal to keep flight restrictions in place around the Washington region would cost the federal government $11.2 million annually and cost airports within the 2,000-square-mile area an estimated $513,000 a year.

The Departments of Defense and of Homeland Security said in a proposed rule filed yesterday by the Federal Aviation Administration that keeping restrictions on private planes in place around the region is an essential part of their security plan.

The FAA put the air defense identification zone in place in February 2003 as a temporary measure.

Now federal security officials want to keep restrictions in place so they have time to “conduct countermeasures” in the event of a terrorist attack, according to the proposed rule.

In the proposal, the agencies outlined the high cost of the security measures.

Additional work for air traffic controllers, processing flight plans, litigation and other costs would account for most of the federal government’s costs associated with making the identification zone permanent.

Requirements by pilots to file flight plans would cost airports an estimated $250,000 annually.

The 19 airports within the zone also would see revenue decline if flight restrictions were made permanent, the FAA said in its filing, because airplanes are likely to leave airports within the zone.

Revenue from rent, fuel sales and landing fees would decline.

FAA rules don’t ban flight by private planes within the zone. But pilots planning to fly small, private planes into it must file a flight plan with the FAA. Before takeoff, pilots must get a code and enter it into a transponder that identifies their aircraft to air traffic controllers and must keep a radio channel open so controllers can stay in contact with them.

Those rules will persuade some private pilots to avoid airports in the restricted zone, and that will result in lost revenue for airports, aviation service companies and flight schools, said Phil Boyer, president of the 406,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Bob Hepp, owner of the flight school Aviation Adventure, said he will keep his business at Manassas Regional Airport and Leesburg Executive Airport even if federal officials make the air defense identification zone permanent.

“We’ve learned to live with the procedures, but I was still hoping they would go away,” he said.

Pilots who store planes at airports within the restricted zone could move them to avoid the paperwork and scrutiny, said David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield in Fort Washington.

“A lot of pilots hoped the restrictions on flight within the [air defense identification zone] would go away. If it is made permanent, a lot of them will bail out and move their planes outside the border,” he said.

FAA restrictions on general aviation at three airports within the smaller flight restricted zone — an inner ring within the air defense identification zone that extends about 15 miles from the Washington Monument — has been devastating on the three airports within it, the agency said in its filing.

The restrictions, in place from February 2002 to February 2005, cost Potomac Airfield about $1.63 million a year; College Park Airport $1.62 million a year; and Washington Executive/Hyde Field in Clinton $1.6 million annually.

Because of the additional restrictions on those three airports, complying with the air defense identification zone would cost each airport at least $1.8 million a year, if the zone is made permanent.

The FAA also said in the proposed rule that if the restrictions are permanent, fewer planes would wander into the zone unauthorized.

More than 1,700 pilots have flown unauthorized into the restricted zone since 2003. Most were minor incidents.

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