AOPA's comments regarding House Bill 977

March 3, 2005

March 3, 2005

The Honorable Sandra Adams
400 House Office Building
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

RE: HB 977

Dear Representative Adams:

On behalf of the 400,000 members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), including more than 31,000 in Florida, we want to share our views regarding House Bill 977. Security is an important issue and we offer the following on HB 977, and its granting of new authority to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

HB 977 would give FDLE new powers to review and approve security plans of general aviation airports that have at least one runway greater than 4,999 feet and do not host scheduled passenger-carrying commercial service operations. For a number of substantive reasons, we respectfully submit that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) would provide Florida's citizens with a more comprehensive and expert oversight of the unique security circumstances at these airports.

The state has long entrusted FDOT with the responsibility for overseeing and regulating Florida's airports. FDOT's skilled professionals currently conduct regular on-site inspections and evaluations at each airport. Moreover, these individual airports and the state aviation department are working with the Federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in preparing sophisticated assessments of each airport based on TSA's recently published guidance for general aviation airports. Vesting new authority in FDLE could inject people unfamiliar with the intricacies of airport operations into the area of airport licensing and could represent a duplicative and an unnecessary expenditure of limited state resources.

Most importantly, FDOT already has made general aviation security a leading priority. The #1 item on the Florida Aviation Department's Web home page prominently displays AOPA's Airport Watch Program, with the toll-free phone number answered by the law enforcement experts at TSA. As you can see, under the existing FDOT umbrella, local pilots and local airports already partnered to keep your state's general aviation airports secure. Injecting an additional department into the mix at this time, we believe, would provide few benefits but at high costs to the citizens of Florida.

Thank you again for your consideration, and we look forward to working with you on this important issue. Should you have any questions or need anything further, please do not hesitate to contact me at 301/695-2203 or AOPA Florida Regional Representative Nelson Rhodes at either 561/241-8657 or nelson.rhodes@aopa.org.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Andrew V. Cebula
Senior Vice President
Government & Technical Affairs

cc: Nelson Rhodes, AOPA Florida Regional Representative