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Police Protect World's Oldest Operating Airport

By Justin Paprocki
Capital News Service
Friday, Nov. 9, 2001


ANNAPOLIS - Local police agencies have rescued the world's oldest 
operating airport from obscurity.

Maryland State Police, Prince George's County Police and various military 
organizations have been landing their planes and helicopters at the College Park 
Airport, keeping its title alive, since private operations were banned in the 
wake of terrorist attacks, said Lee Schiek, College Park Airport general 
manager.

The airport's role in aviation history has been threatened since the 
federal government imposed an 18-nautical mile no-fly zone over Washington, 
D.C., after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade 
Center.

Police and military organizations are among only a few agencies authorized 
to fly in the zone.

"We still have daily traffic," Schiek said. "The airport is being used in 
the official sense."

Maryland State Police have landed at the College Park Airport, confirmed Cpl. Rob Moroney, a police spokesman; however, he would not say how often or 
when they land for security reasons.

Prince George's County Police landed at the airport "several times" since 
Sept. 11, said Cpl. Joe Merkel, a police spokesman, who also declined to be 
specific about police air operations.

The airport's historical title may be saved, but it will all be for nothing if the place goes out of business.

The airport has been losing about $15,000 a day because of the no-fly zone, Schiek said. The Federal Aviation Administration is supposed to announce 
when restrictions will be reduced, he said, but he hasn't heard much.

"Operationally, nothing has changed since Sept. 11," Schiek said. "We're 
just eagerly waiting, day-by-day, to resume operations."

The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission owns the 
airport and has reassured them that they won't have to close, Schiek said.

"We have been given a briefing, and they have pledged to maintain the 
airport until we can resume operations," he said.

Six general aviation airports in Maryland remain under the no-fly zone. All except the College Park Airport are privately owned and are at risk of  having to sell their property.

Four Maryland Congress members wrote a letter Thursday to the Office of 
Management and Budget director calling for the federal government to address the issue.

"All of these airports have been closed for national security reasons and 
we appreciate and understand the administration's decision," said the letter, 
signed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore; Rep. Al Wynn, D-Largo; Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville. "However, we firmly believe that it is incumbent on the federal government to immediately provide relief equal to their financial losses."

Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism


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