The “Happiest Place On Earth” Has Some of the Strictest Airspace in America

The skies over Disneyland in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando is national defense airspace, and intentionally violating Mickey and Minnie’s airspace could result in interception, interrogation and federal prosecution. These no-fly zones are known as temporary flight restrictions, like the ones that surround the president when he travels. Wildfires, air shows and large sporting events also regularly get temporary flight restrictions. Yet, there's nothing temporary about the restrictions over the Disney properties. Such limits don't exist over competing theme parks such as Universal Studios or Knott’s Berry Farm. The Disney restrictions have been in place since 2003, thanks to a provision quietly slipped into a massive congressional spending bill weeks before the Iraq war. Defense and counter-terrorism officials didn't appear to ask for the Disney protections, which were instead urged by at least one Disney lobbyist. The restrictions effectively ended a war between Disney and aerial advertisers who had buzzed over the parks for years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Critics say that the zones, which each cover a 3-mile radius, would be useless against a true terrorist attack and that the restrictions instead mostly harm pilots who tow advertising banners. In fact, nearly 100 aerial advertising firms went out of business after Congress codified the no-fly zones over the Disney parks and sporting events. The no-fly zones have been challenged in court, without success.