The Department of Homeland Security understands security. AOPA understands general aviation. Together they can develop and implement security solutions that really work. That was the message AOPA President Phil Boyer brought to the table when he sat down across from Adm. James Loy, deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Rear Adm. David Stone, head of the Transportation Security Administration, at a meeting of the General Aviation Coalition earlier this week. Boyer was accompanied by AOPA Senior Vice President for Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula, who has been meeting over the past several weeks with his TSA counterparts on details surrounding the contentious alien flight training/citizenship validation rule.
Citing the rule, which requires that pilots prove their citizenship and undergo a background check if they are not U.S. citizens, Boyer explained the need for cooperation. "We need to work together to be sure that regulations make sense. It's pointless to have regulators making rules that can't reasonably be implemented in the real world," he said.
Responding to the concerns laid out by Boyer, Loy outlined his perspective - the DHS way of doing business is to have those most affected by security issues involved in resolving them.
Loy admitted that the government doesn't have all the answers and promised to rely on groups like AOPA to propose practical solutions to security problems. He pledged to create "engagement opportunities" for GA and DHS to work in concert. Loy also cited AOPA's Airport Watch program as an ongoing example of what can be achieved through partnership.
Loy described his agency's efforts as a three-legged stool that must balance the need for security with the interests of commerce and the preservation of civil liberties, and he admitted that there's no going back to a pre-9/11 world.
"We understand that we're living under a new definition of what's 'normal,' but we also understand that we can enhance security while preserving the freedom and functionality that have made GA a critical part of our national transportation infrastructure," Boyer said.
Boyer also reminded Loy and Stone that one size does not fit all when it comes to general aviation, and security regulations need to reflect that fact. Using the air defense identification zone surrounding Washington, D.C., as an example, Boyer noted that a large airplane, fully loaded with fuel and traveling at 400 mph, represents a different kind of threat - and different window of opportunity for response - than does a Cessna 172 or Piper Archer. Current airspace restrictions around the capital don't reflect those differences.
November 16, 2004