KNBC's Chuck Henry recently scooped everyone with this: Oddly, the only two commercial properties in the U.S. that have gained federal no-fly-zone status after 9/11 are Disneyland in Anaheim and Disneyworld in Orlando. The play parks won the favor just days after President George W. Bush invaded Iraq, according to Henry.
The ban keeps aircraft three miles away and at least 3,000 feet above the properties around the clock.
So? Well, if you're thinking the feds are merely protecting sites where large crowds gather, think again. No other theme park in the nation—including Universal Studios, Six Flags, Knotts Berry Farm or Magic Mountain—has such protection. In fact, the Las Vegas strip regularly holds more people on any given day. Anyone can fly over the strip.
Worse, Henry noted, "The unique status that has been granted the Disney theme parks is something that even Southern California's highest potential terrorist targets don't have, and that includes LAX. We hired a pilot and a small plane and flew over the airport terminals, fuel tanks and even active runways. Then we headed south to Orange County and flew over another potential terror target, the San Onofre nuclear reactor. There are no flight restrictions here, either."
Disney officials declined to talk on camera to KNBC, but Loretta Sanchez, who represents Anaheim in Congress, called the special treatment "amazing" and laughed about the "power of the mouse ears." She also blames the ban on a secret directive written cryptically into federal legislation by . . . wrong . . . Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby. According to Sanchez, Shelby buried his move in a $350 billion appropriations bill in 2003.
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"It hasn't had a hearing," Sanchez told Henry. "It wasn't made public. It just happened."
Shelby's office told KNBC, "no comment."
Would Disney use the threat of terrorism as a cheap business ploy? At least one California pilot thinks so. He told Henry that Disney officials wanted the special federal restrictions to prevent planes with commercial ad banners from flying near their parks.
Perhaps it's a small world after all.