WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration is considering making permanent regulations aimed at increasing security within a 2,000-square-mile Air Defense Identification Zone (search) over Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.
Under the rules, pilots must notify the FAA where they plan to fly within the zone and when they plan to do it. They also must obtain a code for a transponder that will identify their plane to air traffic controllers, with whom they must stay in constant contact.
The request to make the rules permanent comes from the Department of Homeland Security, whose officials say that while no information suggests an imminent plan by terrorists to use airplanes to attack the nation's capital, the city is a "high-value target." DHS officials say with its government buildings and well-known monuments, the threat of attack on Washington "remains high."
The ADIZ is separate from an even more restricted 16-square-mile "no-fly" zone directly over the city. Planes errantly flying into that space have forced repeated evacuations of the U.S. Capitol in recent months, leading some to question the effectiveness of these restrictions.
The problem is even bigger in the much larger Air Defense Identification Zone, into which more than 1,700 unauthorized planes have flown since its February 2003 creation, a fact pilots say proves the restrictions are unworkable.
"[The restricted zone] is operationally unworkable and imposes significant burdens on pilots and air traffic controllers alike. ... Yet the FAA proposal ... does nothing to address the operational problems," said Phil Boyer (search), president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Under the FAA's proposal, criminal penalties would be added to the risks of violating these regulations, including up to one year in prison.
The area encompassing the ADIZ has 19 airports, including Reagan Washington National Airport (search), Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Opponents have until Nov. 2 to voice objections over the rules before FAA officials give final consideration to making the regulations permanent.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Megyn Kendall.