You Can't Fly Over The Happiest Place On Earth

by Lauren Barbato

Disneyland and Disney World are not only the happiest places on Earth — they may just be the safest. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the two popular amusement parks that are, in many ways, emblematic of American culture are even more American than we realized. The two Disney parks are restricted "no-fly" zones for all planes, thanks to special defense protection from the U.S. government. After all, how else could Mickey and Minnie Mouse go on living happily in the land of teacups and magic castles?

According to the LA Times, the restricted airspace above Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Disney World in Orlando, Florida, are technically known as "temporary flight restrictions," advising pilots of any type of aircraft to avoid the area because it's "national defense airspace." But as write Matt Pearce points out, these restrictions are hardly temporary — they've been in place since 2003, around the time the Iraq War began. The special provision to protect the skies above the two Disney parks was tacked onto a congressional spending bill — a weird tidbit that you can now pull out at parties to impress your friends.

However, what's stranger about Disney's "no-fly" zones is the fact that they weren't really instated as a counter-terrorism tactic. An investigation from the Orlando Sentinel revealed in 2003 that curbing outside advertisers may have been the real motivation behind the restricted airspace over Mickey Mouse's home.

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Jim Butler, who owned Aerial Sign Company, one of the largest aerial-advertising companies in the nation, told the Sentinel in 2003: "It's designed specifically to stop the ambush marketers, which in certain cases, we are ambush marketers — or what I call guerrilla marketing."

Butler wasn't alone in his thinking. Another aerial advertiser, Joe Kittinger of Florida, added to the Sentinel then:

Disney tried to make that restricted airspace for years but couldn't until now because the airspace belongs to the people, not to a corporation. They've achieved it now under the guise of national security, and there is absolutely no reason for it.
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So, what's it like 10 years later? Well, the practicality of Disney's "no-fly" zones is still being debated, and a consensus has yet to be reached. The FAA plans on revisiting Disney's prohibited airspace, which is listed on the FAA website under "security," to see if it's truly needed.

Although the security needs for a national defense airspace over Disney amusement parks are suspect, it seems like the main issue here are still local companies frustrated with their lack of space and Disney's monopoly of the sky. Business owners and advertisers who used to make their biggest profits flying over Disneyland and Disney World have reportedly struggled over the last decade. As such, they maintain the restricted airspace is bad for business.

Mark Skinner, owner of Anaheim Helicopters, told the LA Times:

Banner towers used to make money with their banner tows around Disneyland; now they're not allowed to. ... People can't take aerial photography shots. [But] you can fly [around] Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags, no big deal.

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