AOPA tells New Jersey, 'Wait a minute'

July 28, 2003

Debra A. Firman, Acting Deputy Administrative Practice Officer
New Jersey Department of Transportation
Division of Policy, Legislative and Regulatory Actions
Bureau of Administrative Practice and Public Law Implementation
1035 Parkway Avenue
PO Box 600
Trenton, NJ 08625-0600

Re: Proposed Readoption with Amendments: N.J.A.C. 16:54

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the world's largest aviation association representing nearly 400,000 members nationwide and 9,550 in New Jersey.

The association submits these written comments to New Jersey proposed re-adoption with amendments of New Jersey Administrative Code (N.J.A.C.) 16:54—"Licensing of Aeronautical Facilities," as published in the New Jersey Register (PRN 2003-185). The state of New Jersey should delay adoption of these requirements until such time as they can be re-evaluated following the release of the recommendations from a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) task force on general aviation security. This general aviation task force that includes representatives from state aeronautics organizations, airports, and general aviation users are expected to complete this work by September.

Aeronautical facility security

AOPA supports industry-supported security measures as practical and reasonable effective general aviation security requirements. This is why AOPA partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop a toll-free nationwide phone number (866/GA-SECURE) to report suspicious activities. The governmentally funded and operated phone number is a key component of AOPA's Airport Watch Program. Through signage, videos, and brochures, the Airport Watch program takes advantage of the nation's more than 600,000 pilots to be the eyes and ears for reporting suspicious activities at airports.

AOPA is concerned that individual requirements varying from state to state will create problems in maintaining an interstate aviation transportation system. Security requirements that vary from state to state is also a concern that was stated by the TSA when they recently formed the general aviation task force. This task force is developing a set of guidelines for general aviation security that will ultimately be endorsed by the TSA.

Since requiring airfield security measures, as a condition of state airport licensing will effectively regulate general aviation airports in New Jersey, we are opposed to their adoption as outlined.

Federal actions on aviation security

It is important to recognize that much has changed since the tragic events of 9/11. The federal government has taken numerous actions related to general aviation security. These federal actions include the following:

  • Regulation adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration on January 24, 2003, that permits the immediate suspension, revocation, or refusal to issue an airmen certificate to anyone that the TSA (an agency of the Department of Homeland Security) has determined poses a threat to transportation security. This is based on information from databases maintained by the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies.
  • There are current federal restrictions on flight training of foreign nationals, including a requirement for background checks for individuals seeking to receive a U.S. pilot certificate on the basis of a foreign pilot certificate. This requirement was put in place in July 2002.
  • A federal requirement mandates that the U.S. Department of Justice conduct a comprehensive background check for all non-U.S. citizens seeking flight training in larger aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. Legislation expanding this requirement to cover all foreign nationals is awaiting final passage by the U.S. Congress in the FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.2115).
  • An FAA requirement, adopted in October 2002, requires a pilot to carry a government-issued photo identification along with their pilot certificate when operating an aircraft.
  • AOPA has partnered with the Transportation Security Administration to develop a nationwide Airport Watch program that uses the more than 650,000 pilots as eyes and ears for observing and reporting suspicious activity. This helps general aviation keep general aviation airports secure. AOPA Airport Watch is supported by a centralized governmentally staffed toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE) and system for reporting and acting on information provided by general aviation pilots. The Airport Watch program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and a training videotape to educate pilots and airport employees as to how security of their airports and aircraft can be enhanced. The state of New Jersey has actively supported this program and distributed signs to each public-use airport.
  • Recently, the TSA formed a working group to help develop appropriate security guidelines for general aviation airports. The working group was formed as a part of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC). This group will have its work completed by September of this year.
  • Since September 11, the FAA and government officials have utilized airspace restrictions at various locations across the United States to prohibit or restrict aircraft operations in certain areas when intelligence officials report heightened security sensitivity. These airspace restrictions are typically patrolled and enforced by U.S. Customs and U.S. military aircraft.

Two-lock requirement

AOPA strongly believes New Jersey's two-lock requirement is unnecessary, costly, and burdensome. In a meeting following the release of the "two-lock" rule, AOPA President Phil Boyer met with representatives from the New Jersey Attorney General and Commissioner of Transportations Office. At the meeting, AOPA received a commitment that state officials would "work with our members." Several of our initial concerns have been addressed by adopting clarifying language of what constitutes a two-lock system with language that was contained in a memo to AOPA from the New Jersey Division of Aviation dated March 25, 2003.

AOPA expects that the memo from the New Jersey Division of Aeronautics to AOPA, dated March 25, 2003, which provides answers in greater detail, is not superseded by the re-adoption. This memo specifically described the background for the rule, as well as details for what types of aircraft the rule applies to (i.e., conventional gliders and balloons do not need to comply). The memo also specifically answered several operator questions pertaining to the application of door locks, hangar locks, ignition keys, all of which constitute a locking device. It is AOPA's desire that the information in that memo be applied to the re-adopted rule, and we request verification that the memo will not be superseded by the re-adoption.

The long-term impacts this rule will have on general aviation operators remain a concern for AOPA. We anticipate that following the completion of public comments to the re-adoption and receipt of written comments, the commitment of the state to "work with our members" will be further demonstrated in order to limit the negative impact this requirement will have on aircraft operators. State officials had informed AOPA that they would consider the idea that the task order and the two-lock requirement would be removed when the national threat level is reduced. AOPA strongly supports this concept and request its inclusion in the re-adoption.

Facility security device

AOPA is aware that New Jersey has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the installation of an airport surveillance monitoring system. The system will be Web-based and installed at 46 public-use general aviation airports throughout the state. Installation of such a security device, if fully funded by the division, would become a condition of the state's airport license or incense renewal.

AOPA members have serious concerns regarding such a monitoring system. In a representative poll of New Jersey members taken last March, more than 71 percent of our members disagreed with a video surveillance system. AOPA would like the opportunity to discuss in greater detail our members' concerns for the privacy of such information.

Facility signage requirement

AOPA airport facilities should post the Airport Watch sign, which lists the nationwide toll-free number to report suspicious activities to authorities (866/GA-SECURE), in place of the signs recommended in the re-adoption that list multiple numbers including local fire department, police, ambulance or medical service, airport operator, NJDOT Division of Aeronautics, FAA Flight Standards District Office, TSA, and National Transportation Safety Board.

Facility requirements

By adding definitions and requirements for "airpark" and "ultralight recreational facility" and redefining the term "balloonport," the state is adapting flexibility to accommodate the varying types of aviation activities in the state. AOPA hopes the state will also consider flexibility in security requirements as well, when it is obvious that not all airports are alike, and a one size fits all approach to security is not appropriate.

AOPA believes it is important that state security requirements do not undermine the national transportation system. We strongly recommend that the state of New Jersey delay adoption of these requirements until such time as they can be re-evaluated following the release of the TSA/ASAC recommendations.

Sincerely,

Andrew V. Cebula
Senior Vice President
Government and Technical Affairs

July 28, 2003