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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: FAA Shrinks, Simplifies Washington Air Defense Identification Zone

CIVIL

Effective Aug. 30, the FAA was to reconfigure the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around Washington, changing it from what many pilots have described as "Mickey Mouse ears" to a rough circle centered on the DCA VOR.

The original ADIZ was placed around Washington in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and encompassed the Class B airspace of National Airport (KDCA), Dulles International (KIAD), Baltimore-Washington International (KBWI), and Andrews AFB (KADW). The new zone (shown in blue above) releases 1,800 sq mi of airspace, including much of the Class B space around BWI and IAD.

The change comes after lobbying by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. (AOPA) and Helicopter Assn. International, whose members had enjoyed relatively unrestricted flying around the region prior to Sept. 11, 2001. A major complaint was that the zone’s irregular shape made it difficult for pilots to identify its boundaries using ground references or radio navigation aids. Rules also required aircraft to maintain radio contact with the Potomac terminal radar approach control center at the zone’s outer reaches.

Reconfiguring the ADIZ into a circle with a 30-nm radius off the DCA VOR will simplify identifying its boundary. Pilots also see it as acknowledgment from government officials that the buffer was too wide.

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said, "You told us to simplify the design. You told us that it would improve safety... you were right..."

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