8:57 PM

AOPA Pilots
Prove They Are
All Top Guns


Just a few days ago – in preparation for their annual Fly-In and Open House at Frederick (Maryland) Municipal Airport – AOPA, released (pdf) a very serious warning about the FAA's expansion of the P-40 prohibited area over Camp David just northwest of FDK. The expanded area created a sliver of clean airspace that Fly-in pilots would have to navigate like a funnel approaching the airport. It sounded like a recipe for disaster:

"When it expands, the prohibited area at Camp David, Md., grows from a 3-nautical-mile radius to a 5-nm radius. In addition, pilots flying in the ring from 5 nm to 10 nm must be on an active IFR or VFR flight plan, be in positive radio contact with air traffic control, and use an ATC-assigned discrete transponder code. Pilots who violate the airspace can expect to be intercepted by the Air Force and questioned by the Secret Service, and can expect enforcement action by the FAA."
But AOPA's president, Phil Boyer, has great confidence in his talented staff. He turned them loose with all guns blazing, in hopes of creating a "zero tolerance" world where ALL of the inbound fly-in planes staff our of the nasty airspace both north AND south of the approaches to FDK.

Under such tight airspace restrictions, you would guess that a couple of old guys in a beater 172 would surely wander into the prohibited areas and become cannon fodder for the Air Force and suspects for the Secret Service. With hundreds of inbounds, you would think some student pilot out for a joyride would stumble into trouble, but you would have been all wrong. If you thought there was no way AOPA could keep trouble at bay, you just don't know Boyer's AOPA:
"Pilots flying to and from the AOPA Fly-In and Open House on June 7 got the message about the expanded P-40 prohibited area over Camp David, Md., receiving no violations as the show was winding down Saturday evening. “We asked our members for zero violations, and we got it,” said Boyer. “With great flying weather, more than 500 airplanes attended the show. Despite being squeezed into a smaller airspace between the expanded P-40 and the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone, the pilots of these aircraft heeded our warnings and steered clear.”
This just goes to show you two things: (1) The GA pilots back in the Washington, D.C. area really know their stuff, and (2) when AOPA sets out to do something, the always find a way to get it done. I just hope their expert PR team can get the mainstream media to understand how significant this story is, and how hard it is to make 500 GA planes thread the needle between the two most dangerous chunks of our airspace.

To AOPA, and the pilots who pulled this magnificent feat off...major kudos! This is one for the books, and as always, it makes me proud to be AOPA. Are you a member? No? what, are you NUTZ? Join today here. You have no excuse, none.

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