The FAA has issued a Special Notice regarding the implementation of a visual warning system for the Washington D.C. air defense identification zone (“DC ADIZ”) and the flight restricted zone around the capitol and white house (“FRZ”). The new signal “consists of highly focused red and green colored lights in an alternating red/ red/green signal pattern” and “may be directed at specific aircraft suspected of making unauthorized entry into the ADIZ/FRZ and are on a heading or flight path that may be interpreted as a threat or that operate contrary to the operating rules for the ADIZ/FRZ.” According to the FAA, the laser beam is not injurious to the eyes.
If a pilot finds him or herself “illuminated”, the pilot should communicate with ATC either on the current frequency if in radio contact or, if the pilot is not in radio contact, the pilot should communicate on VHF guard 121.5 or UHF guard 243.0. In either event, the pilot should turn to a heading away from the center of the DC ADIZ and the FRZ. The FAA advises that failure to comply with the signal “may result in interception by military aircraft and/or the use of force.” The target date for implementation of the new signal is May 21, 2005. For more information regarding the signal, NORAD has published a Fact Sheet including a detailed description of the signal as well as answers to anticipated questions.
After the overly publicized DC ADIZ incursion on Wednesday, I am sure this system will be well received. However, for situations such as Wednesday, I am not so sure the signal will make much of a difference. It is still inconcievable to me how a pilot (a cfi no less) flying along the east coast in this post 9/11 era could be so ignorant as to fly right through the DC ADIZ. With a student no less! In this type of situation, I would be surprised if such a pilot would be familiar with the warning system or understand what was going on if he or she were actually “illuminated”.
Unfortunately, that pilot’s stupidity will just add fuel to the chicken littles out there preaching the supposed threat of general aviation. It will certainly make it more difficult to regain access to Reagan National Airport.