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Airspace proposal may affect airport

May 22, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A federal proposal to extend restricted airspace around Camp David has national and local officials worried that such a move would disrupt commercial flights and other business operations at Hagerstown Regional Airport and 10 other airports, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

Washington County Commissioner John C. Munson said increasing, on a temporary basis, the restricted airspace would cripple Hagerstown Regional Airport when the president is at Camp David, which is in the Catoctin Mountains in Frederick County, Md.

"That would shut down the airport," Munson said. "The government has no business doing that kind of stuff."

U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., stated in a May 15 letter that the Transportation Security Administration has proposed increasing temporary flight restrictions around Camp David during presidential visits from 10 nautical miles to 30 nautical miles.

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Federal Aviation Administration Spokesman Jim Peters said Wednesday that the FAA had no information on the proposal.

He said if the larger restriction were to be imposed, the FAA would announce it before it went into effect.

Mikulski and Sarbanes' letter asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to consider the economic impact a larger restricted airspace would have on the aviation community while reviewing any proposal that would curtail aviation operations.

The Department of Homeland Security referred all calls to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Aircraft, including private and commercial planes, are not allowed to fly in restricted airspace.

Mikulski and Sarbanes wrote that increasing the temporary flight restriction to 30 nautical miles, combined with other existing airspace restrictions, would result in restricted airspace measuring nearly 70 nautical miles.

A nautical mile is about 6,076 feet.

In addition to the Hagerstown Regional Airport, airports in Chambersburg, Pa., Martinsburg, W.Va., Frederick, Md., Shippensburg, Pa., and Gettysburg, Pa., would be affected by the restrictions.

"An economic impact survey has estimated that these airports will lose an average of $236,124 per day" while the temporary restrictions are in effect, Sarbanes and Mikulski wrote.

Airports in the Washington metropolitan area already have been severely affected by existing airspace restrictions, they said.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said the effect would be significant on the airport.

"It would certainly be disruptive, especially if you have scheduled commuter service," Wivell said.

Hagerstown Regional Airport's Airport Advisory Commission Chair Anton Dahbura and Commission member Spence Perry said they didn't think the proposal was much to worry about.

"You always have some hotdog who's proposing something," Perry said. "It can stir up a lot of hate and dissension."

"It's not something to be overly concerned about," Dahbura said.

Chris Dancy, media information director for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in Frederick, said he thinks there's no need to increase the temporary restricted airspace.

"It's something that the AOPA does oppose," he said.

Association President Phil Boyer said in a written statement that organization will continue to fight flight restriction proposals that threaten the aviation industry.

"Without a specific and credible threat, disruptions to (the) nation's aviation commerce should be kept to a minimum," Boyer said. "While we recognize the need to protect the president, AOPA will continue to fight to make the restriction fit the threat."

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