- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

With strict new security measures in place, two of the three airports in the country yet to reopen all based in Prince George's County and all closed since the September 11 terrorist attacks were given the green light to fly again yesterday.
College Park Airport and Potomac Air Field in Fort Washington were abuzz with business. Washington Executive-Hyde Park in Friendly, however, did not meet new security standards.
"It's really great to be flying again," said Leon Jackler of Silver Spring, who was the first pilot to land at College Park at 8:30 a.m. yesterday. Mr. Jackler flew from Gaithersburg, where he has kept his plane since the fall. "This is a sign that things may be returning to normal and a realization that general aviation is not a threat."
The three regional airports had been closed because of their proximity to the Washington Monument. After the attack on the Pentagon, private planes were not allowed to fly within 15 miles of the Monument.
Federal regulations are still pretty tight. Flying to and from these local airports is restricted to planes already registered there. Furthermore, pilots first must receive security clearance with the federal government and file extensive flight plans before their departure.
The region's pilots are happy they can fly again, but many believe these restrictions are cumbersome and unnecessary.
"The majority of guys who fly in and out of here are [on] active duty and are very patriotic," said Dave Anderson, a pilot who flies out of Potomac Air Field, and was going to Petersburg, Va., for his first private flight in five months.
Mr. Anderson, also an Air Force pilot based at Andrews Air Force Base, declined to give his rank. He said, however, if he could pass security for the Air Force, then the federal government should not worry about his flying out of Potomac.
"They are not going to call up my first-grade teacher and ask her what type of student I was," Mr. Anderson said, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the extensive background check he went through in military service.
"I'm going to have to do all that for a six-minute flight?" John Duker, a pilot from Waldorf, asked rhetorically. "This is [as if] we were scheduling an airliner to Los Angeles; … it's a pain." He flies out of Potomac for recreation.
Other pilots are taking the restrictions in stride and are happy the federal government has lifted the ban, although they say it could have been lifted long ago.
"We are happy to demonstrate to the federal government that they can have a comfort level with [general aviation pilots] to hopefully make the rules less restrictive," said Lee Schiek, manager of the College Park Airport, "but in retrospect, the regulations we are living with now probably could have been accomplished in much less time."
"I always had faith in the system that it would open up again," said Jim Metzger of Bowie. "It just took a little longer than I thought." Mr. Metzger was flying from College Park to Cambridge, Md., for lunch to celebrate the airport's reopening.
"I fly for the fun of it it's a hobby but it's good to have a destination in mind," Mr. Metzger said before take-off.
Steve Provoncha, airport manager at Washington Executive-Hyde Park, would not give specific reasons why his airport did not meet the security codes.
"It's secret agent-type stuff," he said. He said he hoped to be open in the next few days.
James Davidson, owner of ATC Flying School, which operates from Potomac, has spent thousands of dollars updating all of his computers and fixing all of his planes since they were grounded. He remains optimistic that his spending spree will pay off, though he estimates he lost well over $100,000 in revenue since the Pentagon attack.
"It's a gamble that I'm taking a shot at," Mr. Davidson said, sick with the flu yesterday. "Either we are going to recuperate our losses and be bigger and better than before, or we'll have one hell of a going-out-of-business party. … I'm just glad it's over, if it's over."
The new regulations, which took effect late Friday night, are temporary. The federal government will re-evaluate the situation in 60 days and see what, if any, changes need to be made.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide