GOP congressman looks to strip Disney of no-fly zones over theme parks

'Special interests may have hijacked' FAA's 'mandate' of making the skies safe, congressman says

FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, is looking to strip Disney of its no-fly-zone privileges over both of its stateside theme parks.

Nehls sent letters to both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg regarding the Mouse House’s restricted airspace that was given to the company via a 2003 law.


"Major corporations should not get unreasonable privileges just because they have the ability to bankroll Congress, especially when they are trying to force their ideology on our children," Nehls told Fox News Digital in a Monday statement.

Rep Troy Nehls Texas

Rep. Troy Nehls wants to strip Disney theme parks of their no-fly-zone privileges.  (Getty Images)

The Texas congressman wrote that "special interests may have hijacked" the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) "mandate" of making the skies safe and efficient "in the sheep’s clothing of national security, for commercial gain."

"The FAA has authority to prohibit or limit aircraft from operating in certain airspace. These flight restrictions add complexity and restrict freedom – and they should be reserved for compelling national security and safety needs," the letters read, pointing out that no-fly zones "reside over places of high security" like "military bases" or natural hazards.

"Yet, because aircraft can be noisy or disruptive, interest groups may lobby Congress to enact restrictions for their benefit," they continue. "The principle of fairness requires that the federal government does not favor one organization over another, or thereover, enact flight restrictions to benefit one favored organization."

Nehls pointed to the 2003 omnibus bill, and subsequent 2014 amendment so the Mouse House could fly drones at their parks, that "created permanent ‘temporary’ flight restrictions" over the Disney resorts in California and Florida, saying that no "other theme parks have restrictions on airspace, including neighboring competitors like Universal Studios."

Nancy Pelosi Chuck Schumer

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hold a press conference on gas prices, April 28, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The congressman also highlighted the FAA’s "official Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) references ‘Special Security Reasons’ as a justification for the restrictions" and that "safety regulators at FAA have questioned the need for these restrictions."

Additionally, Nehls pointed to the 2013 congressional testimony of Obama-era FAA administrator Michael Huerta, who said, "Disney’s ‘no-fly zones’ do not meet standard requirements and would not be in place has Congress not enacted specific legislation."

"Other independent observers have long questioned the security rationale for these ‘no-fly zones,’" Nehls wrote. "In 2003, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the decision ‘angered pilots across the country who accuse Disney of manipulating the nation’s terrorism fear for one clear commercial aim: to close public airspace over its parks as a way to ban competitors’ aerial advertising planes and sightseeing helicopters.’"

Pete Buttigieg

Texas congressman sent letters to both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Nehls also wrote that the Orlando Sentinel also reported that Disney "used its well-connected lobbyists to influence members to carry out its task" and that, while it is "unclear" what makes Disneyland and Disney World "unique security" risks, "the financial benefits are clear."

"This may be why in 2003, Disney’s spokesperson acknowledged that the flight restrictions would promote the ‘enjoyment’ of their guests by eliminating ‘banner ads from trial lawyers’ and aircraft ‘buzzing the parks.’"

Capping off his letter to Pelosi, Nehls called on the speaker to have the House "reconsider" the controversial no-fly zones’ "appropriateness" after two decades of their implementation, as measures "designed for protecting our national security and public safety must not be co-opted by companies looking to gain."


In the letter to Buttigieg, Nehls asked the secretary if the Biden administration "supports the continued preferential treatment of Disney Resorts" through the no-fly zones.

Neither the Transportation Department nor Pelosi’s office responded to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.