|NMU||WASHINGTON, D.C.||Newsgathering||Oct 3, 2001|
Helicopter ban lifted for some airspace
- The Federal Aviation Administration removed restrictions for rural flights this weekend but maintained its ban on newsgathering flights over the 30 largest cities.
The operation of non-commercial aircraft, including news-reporting and traffic-watch helicopters, was restored over the weekend for flights conducted outside the nation’s largest cities, a spokesman from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said.
But the nationwide ban on light aircraft, put in place by the Federal Aviation Association following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of Sept. 11, still restricts the flight of many small aircraft from flying within 25 miles of the nation’s 30 largest cities, according to Warren Morningstar of the AOPA.
Banner-towing planes, balloons, pipeline- and powerline-inspection operations are also included in the ban, Morningstar said.
The FAA shut down the entire American airspace for several days after the attacks, a precaution to stave off any other hijacking or sky-bombing attempts from terrorists. The agency gradually lifted some restrictions but continues to maintain a ban on the flights of many small aircraft within Class B airspace. That designation typically encompasses a radius of 25 to 30 miles around a city, Morningstar said.
In cities like Los Angeles, the lifting of some restrictions has allowed news gathering helicopters to cover outlying areas, but in cities with less sprawl, chopper coverage of traffic and other news is more restricted. The logic behind the updated restrictions remains unclear to many.
“General aviation is allowed,” in Class B airspace, said Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association. “But a lot less is known about charter flights than is known about news helicopters.”
Cochran said that she was baffled that “the circling maneuver engaged in by news helicopters is considered a ‘threat profile’ maneuver.”
Hank Price, a spokesman for the FAA, cited “national security” as justification for the continued bans but declined to go into specifics about security issues or restrictions on helicopters, small planes or news flights.
© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press