The FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) tomorrow will publish "direct final rules" that permit the FAA to immediately suspend, revoke, or refuse to issue an airman certificate of anyone that TSA has determined poses a threat to transportation security. The agencies issued the rules under the authority Congress gave them when it passed the Aviation Transportation Security Act of 2001 and directed TSA and the FAA to "make modifications in the system for issuing airman certificates related to combating acts of terrorism."
"AOPA solidly supports every reasonable action to prevent terrorist acts, but these rules beg many questions as to the rights of pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA's legal and technical staff will examine them letter by letter to understand all of the implications, and in the coming days, we will formulate the right response to the comment period that follows, rather than precedes, this form of rulemaking."
The new rules go into effect immediately since the agencies issued them as a direct final rule without prior public notice or comment. However, the agencies are soliciting public comments after the fact and may modify the rules. Members are encouraged to comment and copy the association.
The rules establish procedures for notifying the airman and an appeal process. U.S. citizens may ultimately appeal to the head of TSA, while foreign citizens have lesser appeal rights.
TSA said that perhaps one person per year might be flagged as a security threat.
Initial analysis indicates that the Transportation Security Administration holds the sole authority in a pilot appeal. AOPA has historically fought to ensure that more than one agency is involved in adjudicating certificate revocations.
"With all due regard to national security, we're deeply concerned that the rules appear to permit taking away a pilot's license without an independent review," said Boyer.
[See also the final rules: Ineligibility for an Airman Certificate Based on Security Grounds ( text | PDF); Threat Assessments Regarding Alien Holders of, and Applicants for, FAA Certificates ( text | PDF); and Threat Assessments Regarding Citizens of the United States Who Hold or Apply for FAA Certificates ( text | PDF).]