TSA tells Congress GA threat was overstated in wake of attacks

October 17, 2003

Admiral James Loy, head of the Transportation Security Administration, yesterday told the House aviation subcommittee that "we're getting to the point" when the government will need to rethink many of the restrictions placed on aviation since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Responding to a question from Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), a longtime AOPA member and strong voice for GA in Congress, Loy said in the highly emotional period right after the attacks, it was suggested by some security officials that the threat posed by general aviation was much greater than it actually is. He said his agency is working closely with the GA industry.

"We've been vindicated," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Admiral Loy has reinforced what we've said all along; general aviation is not the threat."

Hayes told Loy that as a pilot and member of Congress, his concerns were both personal and professional. He asked Loy about the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone and whether there were plans for changes beyond those already approved to begin November 1. Loy said no, there are no further modifications pending and no plans to lift the ADIZ. But he did stress his efforts to remove what he referred to as "stupid rules," such as no beverages through security checkpoints and the old check-in questions. He also indicated it might be time to reconsider the 30-minute rule for flights to or from Reagan National Airport (DCA)—requiring airline passengers to remain in their seats for 30 minutes after departure from or before arrival at Reagan National.

The hearing had dealt primarily with safety at air carrier airports until Hayes and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton began peppering him with questions about GA.

Norton pressed especially hard about the National Capital Airspace Working Group and efforts to reopen DCA to general aviation. She challenged Administrator Loy to set deadlines for the working group so that the restrictions would no longer last indefinitely.

"As we move forward from here, it's important that Congress and the public remember all of the improvements the federal government has made to GA security," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "They've taken six very specific regulatory and policy actions to address security concerns about pilots, pilot certificates, and flight training. And at the same time, the GA industry on its own initiative has instituted programs such as AOPA's Airport Watch to further enhance security."

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