December 7, 2005
Sometimes there is no satisfaction in being right. The ink literally hasn't dried yet on Phil Boyer's editorial in the upcoming issue of AOPA Pilot. In that article he says that if all of us pilots don't do our part to stop the breaches of airport security and violations of restricted airspace, "we might not like the national and local solutions that will be handed to us."
It's started already. Two amendments to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill were filed this week in the U.S. Senate. That following the media hype of four recent airspace incursions into the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and restricted airspace over Camp David, and two aircraft thefts by unlicensed young people.
The most severe amendment, offered by New Mexico Senators Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D), calls for a $100,000 fine, confiscation of the aircraft, and a five-year loss of flying privileges for "whoever negligently flies an aircraft in a manner that violates the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) and causes the evacuation of a Federal building or any other public property...." (The FRZ is the 15-nm-radius "no fly" circle around Washington, D.C., that includes the Capitol and the White House.)
AOPA is already talking with Sen. Domenici's office.
"The proposed penalty is extraordinarily harsh - too harsh in fact - but it's clear that members of Congress want to get every pilot's attention that they will not accept any more excuses for these transgressions," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And frankly, there is no excuse.
"That's why all responsible pilots must do everything they can to make sure their aircraft and airports are secure and that every member of our community understands the consequences of security violations. The transgressions of a few are tarnishing all of us who fly, and their actions may impact our freedom of the skies," said Boyer.
The second amendment, from Senators Hillary R. Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) calls for a government study of general aviation security, including "the vulnerability posed to high-risk areas and facilities from general aviation aircraft that could be stolen or used as a weapon or armed with a weapon."
The study would also include GA airport security, technology that could easily track GA aircraft, disabling measures that could prevent aircraft theft, and "an assessment of the threat posed to high population areas, nuclear facilities, key infrastructure, military bases, and transportation infrastructure that stolen or hijacked general aviation aircraft pose, especially if armed with weapons or explosives."
The study must also include cost estimates for the implementation of any recommended security procedures.
"We would welcome an unbiased study, because we are convinced from our own independent research that within the list of risks and threats to the American population, GA will rank very low," said Boyer.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.