AOPA quickly responded to a senator's mischaracterization of general aviation during a hearing last week. Senator John D. "Jay" Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) called aircraft "killing machines," saying large corporate aircraft could inflict half the damage seen on September 11, 2001.
"More than 70 percent of the general aviation fleet are small, single-engine aircraft with six or fewer seats, typically weighing less than a small economy car with the ability to carry even less cargo," AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote Rockefeller. "They have less than 1 percent the mass of large airliner."
Boyer noted that Rockefeller has been an advocate for general aviation and has worked to bring aviation businesses such as Tiger Aircraft Corporation and Sino Swearingen Aircraft Company to West Virginia. "That's why I was both surprised and shocked by your comments at last week's aviation subcommittee hearing," Boyer wrote. "As the president of the largest organization representing this segment of aviation, I'm very concerned by this statement."
Boyer sent Rockefeller pictures of the suicide crash of a Cessna 172 into a Tampa office building and the crash of a Cessna 150 on the White House grounds. The incidents "demonstrate the ineffectiveness of a general aviation aircraft as a terrorist weapon," he said. "While I would prefer that these accidents had not occurred, they underscore that these aircraft do not present a threat to the nation."
He reminded the senator that AOPA had taken a lead role in protecting the nation's aviation infrastructure by investing more than $700,000 in the AOPA Airport Watch program. "Our members recognize the responsibilities the nation's pilots must assume to help keep the U.S. safe and secure. They also know that airline-type security is not necessary, nor is it feasible, for general aviation."
Boyer detailed other security measures taken by industry and government, including strict regulation and screening of all pilots; new photo ID requirements along with harder-to-counterfeit pilot certificates; flight school security enhancements; numerous flight restrictions nationwide; and the Transportation Security Administration's "Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports."
July 1, 2004