|NMU||WASHINGTON, D.C.||Newsgathering||Jan 2, 2002|
FAA restores most of nation’s airspace limits to pre-attack levels
- Newsgathering and traffic copters regained unfettered access to the skies for the first time in four months, except for in areas around New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Dec. 19 restored general aviation access to airspace above the nation’s 30 largest metropolitan areas, lifting restrictions that had been in place for more than three months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This reinforces our commitment to getting America back to business while maintaining the highest standards of safety and security,” said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta in announcing the lifting of the restrictions.
For 27 of the 30 largest metropolitan areas, the restrictions revert back to normal Visual Flight Rules or VFR operations. For the news media, the lifted restrictions mean newsgathering and traffic watch helicopters can enjoy the unfettered access they had before the attacks.
The FAA continues to maintain three restrictions — a three nautical mile radius around Boston Logan Airport, a two nautical mile radius around the World Trade Center site in New York City and a 15 nautical mile radius around the Washington Monument with improved access for area airports.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the FAA discontinued general aviation flights, including those involving newsgathering and traffic reporting, for national security concerns. The agency removed most restrictions during subsequent weeks, but the ban prohibiting news helicopters from hovering over America’s 30 largest cities remained in place until late November.
Groups like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and the Radio-Television News Directors Association spent months negotiating with the aviation, defense and transportation officials to restore airspace access.
“Considering there was a point when FAA had considered making (the restrictions) permanent, these changes are a clear indication that things are finally getting back to normal in the National Airspace System,” said Phil Boyer, president of the pilots’ group. “This is the most significant step forward since the initial resumption of limited VFR operations on Sept. 19.”
© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press