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FAA announces code orange flight restrictions

From Patty Davis
CNN Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday announced flight restrictions for aircraft flying in the New York City and Washington areas, and near Disney World and Disneyland.

The restrictions, which affect both commercial and private aircraft, are in conjunction with the government raising the terrorism threat level in the United States from yellow (elevated) to orange (high) as U.S. forces are poised for war in Iraq. Airspace restrictions announced Tuesday will remain in effect indefinitely, the FAA said.

"We're taking measures to correspond with the threat level to protect the airspace. That which is inside that airspace are potential targets of symbolic value," FAA spokesman Greg Martin said.

But he added, "there is no specific, credible threat for Disney."

The new regulations in effect create a no-fly zone around Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Unless pilots are granted specific exemptions from air traffic controllers, no flights are allowed within a 3-mile radius around the parks or below 3,000 feet.

Government officials said the Disney restrictions are not based on any specific or new information, but rather stem from a general concern about those two locations as possible terror targets.

Counterterrorism officials said the Disney parks have come up in interviews with al Qaeda operatives. Pictures and information about the parks have been found during some terror sweeps overseas, they say.

Officials said the two parks fit the bill for desirable targets: they are symbolic, they attract a huge number of people on any given day, and hitting them could cause economic distress because it would cause people to stay away from tourist sites or recreational facilities.

One senior counterterrorism official said "it's only prudent" to make those locations more secure.

The FAA has imposed temporary flight restrictions over Disney parks on and off since the September 11 terror attacks.

Disney spokeswoman Leslie Goodman said the latest airspace restriction is nothing new and expressed concern the latest restriction is unnecessarily worrying visitors. She complained Disney's phones have been ringing off the hook with anxious vacationers calling.

Also new is the Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends for a 30-mile radius around the New York City area's three major airports: Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, New Jersey. All aircraft in the zone flying below 18,000 feet must have a flight plan and be in continual contact with air traffic controllers through transponders onboard and verbal contact from pilots.

In Washington, a 30-mile restricted zone was imposed February 10 when the nation's security alert was raised from yellow to orange. That February restriction also required all aircraft to have flight plans on file and required transponders and continual pilot contact, but the flight-plan requirement was lifted for Washington after the alert was lowered back to yellow. Tuesday, the FAA re-imposed the flight-plan requirement in the Washington zone.

The FAA also reinstituted a requirement imposed under the previous orange alert that aircraft based at three smaller airports in the Washington area first land at a "gateway" airport for clearance by the Transportation Security Administration before proceeding on to their base airports. The three airports are College Park, Potomac Airfield and Washington Executive/hyde, all in Maryland.

The gateway airport is Tipton Airport near Fort Meade, Maryland, and is outside the restricted zone.

CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report.

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