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Orange County

Fullerton Airport's Wish: Lift Disneyland Flight Limit

October 25, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

The manager of Fullerton Municipal Airport contends that post-9/11 flight restrictions still in effect over Disneyland put pilots at risk and has appealed to a local legislator for help. The Fullerton Airport Advisory Committee has drafted a letter to Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) asking that the restrictions be eliminated or explained.

"The best-case scenario," Rod Propst said, "is that they go away. The worst-case scenario is that we [are] reassured that there is a very valid reason they are in place."

The restrictions -- which ban flights under 3,000 feet within a 3.3-mile radius of Disneyland -- were imposed as part of blanket temporary flight restrictions issued by the Federal Aviation Administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Fullerton Municipal Airport is about four miles from Disneyland.

As time passed and the threat of aerial terrorism was believed to have diminished, some restrictions were relaxed.

But this year, Congress approved a 3,000-page omnibus spending bill that, among other things, extended post-9/11 flight restrictions. Although the legislation didn't mention Disneyland, on March 18 the FAA issued notices to aviators specifically prohibiting flights over it and Florida's Disney World.

"There are only two amusement parks with 'temporary' flight restrictions over them in the country," Propst said Friday. "It's public law -- there's nothing temporary about it."

The problem for pilots taking off from Fullerton, he said, is that to avoid the banned airspace, they must depart to the north, which forces them to cross the path of aircraft approaching from the east.

Although there have been no close calls or accidents, said Tom Polley, chairman of the eight-member advisory committee, "it could cause problems. The idea is that we want to keep it as safe as possible."

The committee's letter -- a draft of which was approved this week -- is being forwarded to Fullerton Mayor Don Bankhead's office for signing. But whether or not he signs it, Polley said, it will be sent to Royce's office next week.

"We're hoping that [the mayor] will endorse it," Polley said, but "if he doesn't want to, then we will send it out under our own signatures."

Bankhead could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Royce said the congressman's office had already been informed about the matter and was looking into it, though no one was available to discuss the issue in detail late Friday.

"We're aware of the letter and waiting to receive it," spokesman Bill Cooper said.

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