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Special Awareness Training Ordered for Washington, D.C. Metro Area VFR Pilots

August 13, 2008 — The FAA issued a long-anticipated final rule this week requiring “special awareness’’ training for any pilot who flies under visual flight rules (VFR) within a 60-nautical-mile (NM) radius of the Washington, DC DCA VOR/DME. The rule becomes effective on February 9, 2009, and involves training developed and provided by the FAA at www.FAASafety.gov.

The FAA says its primary focus is to educate the pilot community in an effort to reduce the number of unauthorized flights into the D.C. Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ).

“EAA and other general aviation organizations have voiced opposition to this mandatory training requirement,” said EAA’s Doug Macnair, vice president of government relations. “While we wish that this new requirement had not come along, this final rule is the government’s measured response to more than 3,000 ADIZ incursions that have occurred.”

“Like it or not, the mandatory awareness training is the least onerous intervention the government can take on incursions,” Macnair added. “And if incursions continue after this training requirement has been in place for a while, we’ll have an even more difficult time opposing those who want to greatly increase restricted areas, so it’s really up to us to become more vigilant about this.”

The final rule requires a VFR pilot to complete the free online training course and download a certificate of training completion. That certificate would have to be presented upon request to authorized representatives of the FAA, NTSB, TSA, or any federal, state, or local law enforcement officer.

Although all of the 3,000-plus incursions were eventually determined to be non-criminal in nature, each incursion places an unnecessary burden on Federal, state, and local law enforcement resources. Several incursions have prompted a reaction by Washington security personnel to evacuate the Capitol, White House and other sensitive facilities causing considerable disruption at the highest levels of government. “Each time a serious ADIZ/FRZ incursion prompts an evacuation in Washington, much of the hard work EAA and other organizations do to improve the perception of general aviation at the highest levels of government is obviated in a few minutes,” Macnair added, “General aviation makes more enemies in minutes than all the good contacts its representative organizations can build in years. If we do not get ADIZ incursions under control, GA will be irreparably harmed - much more than it already has been.”

EAA and other general aviation organization have worked tirelessly to minimize the impact of airspace and other operational restrictions on general aviation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks but the pressure from national security interests for greater restrictions is continual and has in no way diminished with the passage of time. EAA will continue to do everything we can to educate top level elected and security officials of the true nature of general aviation and press for reasoned and risk-based approaches to security as necessary.

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