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Washington State bill to fine pilots for flying too close to gov's houseWashington State bill to fine pilots for flying too close to gov's house

Lt. Gov. Bradley Scott Owen
President of the Senate
P.O. Box 40482
Olympia, WA 98504-0482

Dear Lt. Governor Owen:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a nonprofit membership association of over 380,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide, 10,800 of whom reside in the state of Washington. With this letter, AOPA is voicing strong opposition to Senate Bill 6262, which would make it a class C felony to operate an aircraft in violation of existing federal regulations.

The Washington Legislature has under consideration Senate Bill 6262, which would make the operator of a private airplane flying closer than 1,000 feet to the Washington State Legislative Building or the Governor's Mansion guilty of a class C felony. In its current form, this bill unfairly and unnecessarily singles out private aircraft in an attempt to criminalize private aviation. A private aircraft can legally operate in the same airspace system and under the same rules as a larger airliner and should not be subject to discriminatory laws.

Further, the bill is unnecessary because federal regulations prohibit all aircraft to flying over populated areas lower than 1,000 feet. Senate Bill 6262 is redundant, with current Federal Aviation Regulation 14 CFR 91.119 preventing a pilot from operating below an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle over a congested area, except when necessary for takeoff or landing.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to, and they regularly do, pursue certificate action or civil penalties against any pilots operating contrary to the federal regulations. Since local authorities are unable to accurately estimate the height of aircraft and they are not familiar with the FAA's enforcement process, such issues should be left to the expert authority of the FAA to investigate. This is one of the reasons Congress has given regulatory authority to the FAA in these matters.

Without proof of the intent to commit a crime or terror with an aircraft, it is inappropriate to levy felony charges against an individual. General aviation pilots should not be singled out as criminals, if there was no criminal intent in the act.

The FAA, Transportation Security Administration, Homeland Security Office, and numerous other federal agencies have taken steps since 9/11 to protect American citizens. These agencies continue to evaluate threats and, based on those threats, work with the FAA and the aviation community to institute flight restrictions when necessary. Specific security-related concerns that exist should be brought to the attention of these federal agencies to address.

AOPA respectfully requests that Senate Bill 6262 be withdrawn from consideration. This bill is a solution to a problem that does not exist at the state level and can be adequately handled with current federal regulation. If we can provide you with any additional information or insight, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Andrew Cebula
Senior Vice President
Government and Technical Affairs

Cc: The Honorable Frank Chopp, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Mary Margaret Haugen, Chairman Senate Transportation Committee
Mr. Mike Ferguson, AOPA Northwest Regional Representative

February 1, 2002

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