The Transportation Security Administration today published a rule that will allow some general aviation to start using Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) again as soon as the operators comply with a laundry list of security requirements. But numerous questions remain about just who can use the airport and under what circumstances.
DCA was closed to GA following the 9/11 attacks, and this rule represents the first opportunity for any GA aircraft to return to the airport. Even so, the rule limits airport access to "aircraft owned by corporations" and larger charter aircraft that have an armed security officer on board.
But among the issues requiring clarification is the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) definition of a corporately owned aircraft, security officer requirements for flights that aren't carrying passengers, and the possibility of having GA aircraft based at National.
"We'll be working hard to get answers to these questions in the coming days," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "In the meantime we can say for certain that, while AOPA welcomes this easing of the restrictions at National, this new rule does little or nothing to give typical GA pilots and aircraft access to the airport."
Among the restrictions imposed on GA flights into National are TSA vetting of passengers and crew at least 24 hours before flight, criminal background checks for crewmembers, arrival from one of 12 gateway airports, an IFR flight plan, and security fees and costs estimated at $296 per flight and $15 per passenger or crewmember. The rule would allow 48 slots per day with the caveat that TSA could revoke flight approvals at any time.
The plan was first announced in early May, when Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson outlined a six-point restoration plan. The final rule retains most of the provisions of that proposal.
July 19, 2005