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Disneyland's Restricted Airspace Prompts Cancellation Of Insect-Spraying Flight

Restrictions on the airspace around Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., prompted an Orange County contractor to cancel a plan to conduct aerial spraying Wednesday.
Mario Anzuoni
Reuters /Landov
Restrictions on the airspace around Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., prompted an Orange County contractor to cancel a plan to conduct aerial spraying Wednesday.

The airspace around Disneyland is restricted. That's the lesson learned by a company that was set to spray for mosquitoes in Orange County, Calif., Wednesday night — but had to call off the mission because it didn't have a waiver to fly near the theme park.

"A complication arose in the operation regarding permissions to fly over restricted airspace around Disneyland," the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District says. "The contractor was unable to secure the permission in time to conduct a full operation."

We'll note here that, despite applying to "the happiest place on earth," the airspace restriction is no joke: For a 3-mile radius, it's designated as "national defense airspace" by the Federal Aviation Administration (more on that below).

Orange County currently rates the West Nile Virus threat as high, prompting the plan to fly a plane over eight cities to spray a chemical called Duet. The plan was criticized by residents who were concerned about possible side effects.

A county official tells the Orange County Register that the permit to fly through Disney's airspace couldn't be obtained in time for Wednesday night's flight:

"District spokesman Jared Dever said the permit process to fly over Disneyland's restricted air space — including its large buffer zone — is extremely complex. The district didn't plan to spray over Disneyland, but the Anaheim resort area was on the planned flight route."

If you're wondering why Disneyland has its own airspace, The Orlando Sentinel reported in 2003, "Without public debate or even a request from the new Homeland Security Department, Congress bent its own rules to help Disney secure the no-fly zones at the urging of at least one well-connected company lobbyist."

The newspaper added that the airspace over Disney's resorts in Florida and California was protected by legislation passed in the lead-up to the Iraq War.

A recent FAA advisory noted that the airspace is permanently restricted in a circle that centers on the theme park. It adds, "Flights conducted for operational purposes of any Disneyland event and venue are authorized with an approved waiver."

For Orange County, the initial plan for aerial spraying called for flights between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday nights, the Register reports. There's no word on when the next flights might be attempted.

Last year was one of the worst in the past decade for Orange County's efforts to fight West Nile, as 280 people were infected and nine people died. The number of infections tends to spike in August and September, the Mosquito and Vector Control District says.

For now, at least, Orange County's mosquitoes are the unexpected beneficiaries of a no-fly zone.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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