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AOPA-backed bill to repeal Michigan pilot background check passes committeeAOPA-backed bill to repeal Michigan pilot background check passes committee

The Honorable Mike Nofs
Chairman
House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security
State Capitol
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514

Dear Chairman Nofs:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a membership association consisting of over 398,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide, 12,700 of whom reside in the state of Michigan. AOPA is committed to ensuring the continued viability, growth, and development of aviation and airports in Michigan and the United States.

Your committee has under consideration House Bill 4704 sponsored by Representative Stephen Ehardt. House Bill 4704 will replace the current state-mandated criminal records history check of flight students with a more relevant and practicable security program. AOPA strongly supports House Bill 4704.

The recommended security program is designed to ensure flight school aircraft are accessible only to those individuals who should have access. The positive identification of a pilot, procedures to control aircraft keys, or instructional procedures to ensure close student supervision are all ways to ensure only those who need access to flight school aircraft can gain access.

The state mandate for criminal background checks for flight students is unnecessary. The federal government has taken numerous actions to enhance general aviation security—which includes efforts to ensure that individuals who pose a threat to our national security do not learn to fly. Additionally, the federal government has embraced a number of industry security recommendations, such as AOPA's Airport Watch Program, which enhance the security of aviation operations. Michigan's laws can only reach to the borders of the state. This is why the federal government's involvement in aviation security matters is so important.

When passed last session, some members of the legislature may have been unaware that the legislation enacting the criminal background check requirement would create a preemption issue with federal legislation, in which state law would be inconsistent or contradictory to federal regulations. In a letter dated April 10, 2003, from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Assistant Administrator for Transportation Security Policy, Thomas Blank wrote, "It is the position of TSA that federal law impliedly preempts state-imposed aviation security requirements such as MCL § 259.85(24) and that similar legislation being contemplated by other state legislators would likewise be preempted." Likewise, Federal Aviation Administration Deputy Chief Counsel James Whitlow also stated that, "The qualifications of the person operating aircraft are determined according to federal rules and should not be subject to standards varying from state to state."

House Bill 4704 implements reasonable flight school security measures that will benefit all Michigan citizens. Flight training is the foundation of the aviation industry, with more than 90 percent of our nation's airline pilots learning to fly at civilian flight schools. This legislation will allow flight schools to operate in a safe and secure manner without adversely effecting their operations. AOPA strongly supports House Bill 4704 and recommends its passage.

Should you need additional information on this or any related issue, please do not hesitate to contact me at 301/695-2203

Sincerely,

Andrew V. Cebula
Senior Vice President
Government and Technical Affairs

Cc: Representative Stephen Ehardt
Bill Blake, AOPA Great Lakes Regional Representative

May 30, 2003

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