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"War May Bring Limits On General Aviation"

Tuesday, March 18, 2003                         

War May Bring Limits On General Aviation

General-aviation aircraft are expected to face tighter flight restrictions
over a number of major U.S. cities immediately after war breaks out with
Iraq, industry and federal officials say.

While final decisions haven't been reached, these officials said they expect
New York and Washington to have the most-severe restrictions on small planes
typically flown by private pilots.

Some draft plans envision new rules covering as many as 20 metropolitan
areas. Federal Aviation Administration officials, who have the authority to
issue restrictions, Monday were still meeting with officials from the
Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration,
the Pentagon and other agencies to work out the details.

TSA spokeswoman Heather Rosenker said plans for additional restrictions
around the country are in the works, but declined to elaborate. She said any
decision on additional restrictions would depend on whether the nation's
terror-threat level is raised again. One FAA official said the new rules
being drafted could cover as few as five, or as many as 20, separate
metropolitan areas.

It wasn't clear, for example, whether corporate jets or other business
aircraft will face significant restrictions under the new rules. Federal
officials, among other issues, also are wrestling with whether all
general-aviation traffic should be temporarily grounded at the start of
conflict in Iraq, as was the case after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks. How long the latest restrictions would last also is uncertain.

But the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the primary group
representing small-plane owners, sees tougher restrictions as inevitable.

"With the pending war, I am sure general aviation will once again be made a
scapegoat," according to Phil Boyer, the association's president.

A spokesman for the association said "we have always been willing to do our
part to respond to reasonable threats," but continue "to oppose knee-jerk
reactions" that would "shut down a significant portion of our transportation

Previous restrictions have been controversial because, depending on their
severity, they can make it difficult for many private pilots to fly into
certain areas and can effectively ground some aircraft that lack necessary
communication equipment.

Airspace within a 30-mile radius of Washington is the only large area of the
country requiring that private pilots and small aircraft, flying under
visual flight rules in good weather, communicate with controllers before
entering the designated area.

All planes flying there also must transmit a discrete aircraft
identification code that can be picked up by FAA radars that track flights.
Last month, the FAA also mandated all aircraft in designated Washington
airspace to file flight plans with controllers, but that requirement has
since been dropped.

Pilot groups have complained that the restrictions around Washington have
barred flights to and from three small regional airports . These groups also
contend that the current restrictions in the Washington region have
overwhelmed controllers, often forcing small planes to sit on the ground or
fly in holding patterns for long periods.

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