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FAA to free private planes frozen by regulations

By Mike Ahlers
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal authorities Saturday will slightly ease flight restrictions around New York City and Washington and give owners of an estimated 41,000 privately owned aircraft a chance to remove their planes from airports where they have been forced to remain since September 11.

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Beginning at midnight Friday, private aircraft will be allowed to fly within 18 nautical miles of the two cities, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday. Currently, the planes can fly no closer than 25 nautical miles.

In addition, the FAA said owners of general aviation aircraft -- a large category that includes everything except military and commercial aircraft -- will have until midnight Tuesday to move their aircraft from 30 major airports where they have been grounded since the September 11 attacks.

The Airline Owners and Pilots Association estimates that 41,000 of the nation's 200,000 general aviation aircraft are trapped at those major airports.

But a host of other flight restrictions will remain in place:

-- The FAA continues to prohibit news reporting aircraft, traffic watch aircraft, banner-towing aircraft, and sightseeing operations inside enhanced Class B airspace. That typically is airspace within 20 nautical miles of major airports.

-- Pilots cannot fly over major sporting events and large outdoor gatherings. Planes cannot come within three nautical miles of events, unless they are more than 3,000 feet above the event.

-- The FAA also cautions pilots, whenever practical, to avoid flying over power plants and other major utilities.

-- Armed military aircraft may force down or use "deadly force" to stop aircraft flying over restricted or prohibited airspace.

The FAA says all pilots should check bulletins known as "NOTAMs" before flying. They can also call the FAA at 1-800-WXBRIEF and see the agency's Web site at


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