Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain

March 21, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

Airspace incursions are always a bad deal. Getting into Class A, B, C, or D airspace without proper blessing is problematic. But you can double your trouble if you bust an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) or a prohibited area. Several recent ADIZ incursions have once again raised this as a potentially thorny GA issue.

The ADIZ used to be just around the edges of the country. But leading up to the war in Iraq in 2003, Washington, D.C., got its own ADIZ. Couple that with the nearby Camp David prohibited area (P-40), the presidential weekend retreat in central Maryland, and you couldn’t pick two more sensitive areas in which to foul up. At the very least, when somebody just nicks the edge, there will be a mandatory call to the FAA and likely a hearing with an inspector. If the flight gets any deeper into forbidden territory, a full military escort to a nearby airport for “debriefing” is inevitable.

An ADIZ bust can be really bad for pilots, their aircraft insurability, and their aviation career prospects. And it’s just as bad for GA’s image. Unfortunately, lawmakers and the security community always think about ways to further restrict our access to airspace.

May I offer a simple solution that doesn’t involve physical, psychological, or financial pain? In the interactive courses section of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Web site, there is a free program, open to ALL pilots, called “Know Before You Go”. It’s a thorough review of all airspace, temporary flight restrictions (which can pop up literally anywhere), and the two high-security areas mentioned above.

All pilots need to know where they are in relation to sensitive airspace, even when you’re “certain,” that the flight path will not be close. Feel free to fly VFR on nice days, but do consider the security airspace. It’s not weather sensitive.

That’s my observation—what’s yours?

  1. I fly IFR regardless of weather to avoid “security airspace” issues.
  2. I know the airspace rules and comfortably operate VFR.
  3. What’s an ADIZ and where can I get one?
  4. I don’t fly anywhere near any ADIZ or prohibited areas.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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