AOPA counters effort to turn airspace over to law enforcement agency

May 18, 2005

AOPA counters effort to turn airspace over to law enforcement agency

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Rep. Cox and AOPA President Phil Boyer discussed GA security earlier this year.

Debate Wednesday afternoon on the Homeland Security bill again raised misperceptions about general aviation. Fortunately, cooler heads, knowledgeable about the realities of small aircraft, prevailed on the House floor.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) offered an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security authorization bill that would have put the Customs Service's Office of Air and Marine Operations in charge of the Washington, D.C., air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and other airspace around special national security events. AOPA worked against the amendment by educating senior security and aviation congressional policy leaders.

In a highly emotional speech on the House floor, Souder said that there was "no way to stop an airplane from hitting us," and falsely claimed that small aircraft loaded with C4 explosives had attacked targets elsewhere in the world. (Actually, there is no substantiated instance of a Cessna 150-sized aircraft being used in a terrorist attack - anywhere.) Souder also claimed - again, incorrectly - that there was "no one in charge" of the airspace over the nation's capital, and that "this Congress could be blown off the face of the earth while we debate jurisdiction."

Both Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee, effectively refuted Souder. Cox convinced Souder to withdraw his amendment to allow the Homeland Security Committee to take a look at the capabilities of the agencies involved and to give Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff time to complete his review of the department.

Mica also agreed with AOPA's position that the Air Marine Office was not the appropriate lead agency to coordinate airspace security planning and execution of airspace security nationwide.

"Customs and Border Protection Service (CPB) plays an important role in interdiction," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "As we clearly witnessed last week, there's no confusion about who's in charge of interdiction when a small, slow aircraft penetrates restricted airspace around Washington, D.C."

May 18, 2005