Powerful congressman blasts 'pilot insecurity' rules

February 21, 2003

The Honorable James M. Loy
Under Secretary of Transportation for Security
Transportation Security Administration
400 Seventh St., SW, 10126
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Admiral Loy:

I am writing to follow up on our phone conversation last week about the recent TSA rule to revoke pilot licenses. I am still very concerned that the rights of pilots may be adversely affected if the rule is implemented as currently written.

This rule was issued without notice and comment. It is hard to understand why more than 16 months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks it was suddenly necessary to issue this rule. If there is new intelligence that indicates that pilots are a greater threat, I would like to hear about that from you.

Of greater concern to me is there does not seem to be any meaningful avenue of appeal. A pilot whose license is revoked by TSA for security reasons may be told the reasons for revocation are classified. Therefore, the pilot will be unable to defend himself or establish grounds for appeal. Even if he could learn the reasons for the revocation, any appeal would evidently be heard by TSA, the very same agency that revoked the license in the first place. This is unfair and probably unconstitutional.

While I am certainly aware that some of the 9/11 hijackers had taken flight training, they boarded the planes as passengers, not as pilots. It was the failure of our intelligence, immigration, and perhaps airport security systems that allowed them to board those planes and commit terrorist acts. This does not justify taking away the rights of U.S. citizen pilots more than 16 months after the fact.

A few months ago, TSA staff approached this Committee and asked us to consider legislation that would allow the emergency revocation of pilot licenses. However, the security legislation that was subsequently approved by the Aviation Subcommittee (Title III of H.R.5506) did not give TSA this authority. Additionally, such authority is not encompassed by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act.

I would urge you to reconsider this rule. First, I suggest you give the pilots affected an opportunity to comment. Second, and more importantly, I urge you to provide a reasonable right to appeal.

Under current law, the Federal Aviation Administration may immediately revoke a pilot's license for safety reasons. However, pilots are informed of the reasons for the revocation and have the right to appeal to an independent third body, the National Transportation Safety Board. I suggest you adopt a similar procedure for pilot revocations by TSA. If not, I will have no alternative but to explore a legislative solution to this problem.

Sincerely,

DON YOUNG
Chairman

February 20, 2003