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NAFI Working To Reduce Impact Of Flight Restrictions In New Baltimore/D.C. ADIZ

NAFI HEADQUARTERS, OSHKOSH, Wis. - (Feb. 11, 2003) - The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) is working to alter the newly imposed flight restrictions in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area to allow the flight schools effected by the new security restrictions to continue to operate in a safe and profitable manner.

The restrictions, which went into effect February 10, creates an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) within approximately a 30-mile radius around both cities. The new measures require that general aviation pilots maintain two-way radio communication with Approach Control, use a transponder and discrete beacon code, file IFR/VFR flight plans on the ground, and follow standard air traffic procedures for all operations.

NAFI and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) officials participated in telephone conferences with senior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials over the weekend and met with the agencies on Monday to explore ways to reduce the restrictions’ negative impact. During the Monday meeting, specific issues were addressed such as the threat to safety posed to aircraft operating within the traffic pattern at non-towered airports by the requirement to be in constant two-way communications with ATC. The result is that aircraft in the pattern are not monitoring and calling out their position on the Unicom or CTAF frequencies, creating an inherently unsafe situation and the severe threat of mid-air collision.

TSA and FAA agreed to continue to work with NAFI and EAA officials to make changes to the NOTAM that address the safety concerns brought forth by NAFI.

“No one questions the need for additional security measures during times of heightened alert,” said NAFI President Sean Elliott of the increased “Orange Alert” status announced last week. “The NOTAM, however, has left pilots and local aviation officials unsure as to what the restrictions actually mean and how to properly comply. NAFI is working with pilots, flight instructors, the FAA and TSA to reduce the multiple and contradictory instructions that are resulting from this new procedure. Some of the new instructions can creates real safety hazards in addition to the massive economic impact these requirements are having on the general aviation and flight training communities in that region.”

There are nearly two dozen general aviation airports that are immediately affected by the expanded restrictions. Flight schools, Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) and other GA businesses in that area are scrambling to get accurate information about the new rules.

Iwan Blom, chief pilot at Montgomery Aviation at Montgomery County (Md.) Airport, said the new restrictions are a severe blow to flight training activities in the region.

“Sandwiched between the restricted zones in Washington and Camp David is little space to safely operate and accomplish flight training, since dozens of airplanes are trying to do the same thing,” he said.

Other instructors in the area talked of receiving conflicting interpretations from various FAA offices, which threaten to put pilots and instructors in unsafe situations as well as create uncertainty over whether they are violating the new restrictions.

Another difficulty is the number of FAA Flight Service Stations that serve the region, making pilots unsure whether flight plans they file at one office will be forwarded to others in the area. That could place a pilot and/or instructor in violation of the rules even though they have followed all the proper procedures. EAA and NAFI are working with Air Traffic Personnel to obtain clarification that a round-robin flight plan may be used for flight training operations.

“Baltimore, for instance, is asking that we file two flight plans, one to depart the airspace and one to return after we have accomplished our flight training,” said Bob Gawler, a NAFI Master Instructor and FAA Designated Pilot Examiner in the Washington, D.C., area. “The problem is not knowing how much approach control can handle as far as volume and getting significant delays in activating the flight plan to get back in.”

NAFI was founded in 1967 and is dedicated to raising and maintaining the professional standing of flight instructors throughout the nation, as well as providing a safe and effective learning situation for students. In addition, NAFI initiates education and support programs throughout the aviation industry. The organization affiliated with EAA in May 1995. More information is available through NAFI’s World Wide Web site (http://www.nafinet.org/).