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House aviation chairman criticizes TSA, urges passage of FAA budgetHouse aviation chairman criticizes TSA, urges passage of FAA budget

O RLANDO—Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, thinks that he may have made a mistake by voting for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). He criticized its overzealous approach to airport security issues.

Speaking to an audience at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention in Orlando, Florida, this week, Mica said, "I refer to it as that little bastard I helped create. If there is nothing else I do, we will make it work right." Mica said he wants security issues based on "risk and common sense, not bureaucracy." He added that general aviation airports don't need 16-foot fences or X-ray scanning machines for pilots waiting to board their private aircraft.

[AOPA members, see also complete coverage of the NBAA convention by AOPA Pilot staff writers.]

Mica warned that there are problems other than security looming.

At the time of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, Mica was working on a problem that came to a head in the summer of 2000—airspace congestion. Currently the airspace system is working well, and the congestion problem is "in a lull," Mica said, but he added that the nation must not miss this opportunity to get ahead of the congestion problem. The programs at the FAA that are aimed at solving capacity problems are, in many cases, behind schedule and over budget, he said.

As for the new FAA reauthorization bill now stalled in Congress, Mica said concerns of air traffic controllers about massive privatization of control towers are unfounded. In fact, the Department of Transportation inspector general has found in most cases FAA-operated towers are "more error prone and more costly, compared to contract towers," Mica said. The air traffic controllers' union has spent millions on an ad campaign warning that provisions in the FAA budget bill allowing privatization of towers compromise safety. While the controversy over privatizing control towers delays the FAA funding, that agency is operating on a 30-day extension of last year's budget.


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