AOPA defends GA security before Senate Commerce Committee

September 6, 2005

AOPA defends GA security before Senate Commerce Committee

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Andy Cebula

"AOPA members are very concerned about security requirements adversely affecting their ability to fly by reducing their access to airports and airspace." That's what AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula told the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday afternoon.

During testimony on general aviation security, Cebula reiterated that the government must take a risk-based approach to transportation security, concentrating resources in those areas where there is the greatest danger to the general public. He added that light GA aircraft are not a major threat.

Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) agreed, saying, "There has to be some common sense in this."

But the ranking Democrat, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said, "What I worry about are those 212,000 aircraft and 19,000 airports," referring to general aviation.

"GA has gone through some pretty phenomenal changes since 9/11," Cebula answered. "There has been a significant increase in awareness about security, about the need for pilots to be alert and vigilant. More than 80 percent of our members are aware of and participate in the Airport Watch program."

Cebula pointed out that Congress' own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), had concluded that "the small size, lack of fuel capacity, and minimal destructive power of most general aviation aircraft make them unattractive to terrorists and, thereby, reduce the possibility of threat associated with their misuse."

Because GA pilots are so concerned about security, he said that the May 11 penetration of the Washington, D.C., "no fly" zone by the Pennsylvania-based Cessna 150 "was unacceptable to the GA community...this incident was not reflective of the community. However, it also underscores that there must be reason applied as Congress and agencies address issues of national security. A small, slow-flying aircraft does not present a major terror threat. On that day, the intercept pilots understood this, and responded appropriately."

Cebula told the committee that the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) doesn't work. "It adversely affects safety, is costly to operate, and is negatively impacting pilots and aviation businesses.... None of the ADIZ violations have been tied to terrorism."

He also supported full access for pilots using the "DC-3" airports and better access for individual aircraft owners at Reagan National Airport.

June 9, 2005