The Department of Transportation (DOT) is hearing from powerful places about the rule that allows some large corporate operators into Reagan National Airport (DCA) - and the comments aren't good.
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson
The ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), is among those making their displeasure known.
In a letter to DOT, Thompson said that he was "concerned that the restrictions on Phase I may give the appearance of preferential treatment based on class, wealth, and influence. Smaller aircraft operators who are willing to undertake reasonable security measures should not be prohibited from accessing National. I encourage TSA to work toward a reasonable process that will allow flyers of all sizes to utilize National."
AOPA expressed similar concerns in its own letter to DOT, adding that the requirements are far "too complex and expensive for most general aviation pilots to even consider.... For the typical AOPA member, this final rule will not provide access to DCA for at least one year and even then will be prohibitive to the point that most will not participate."
Equally troubling is the disconnect between the vetting process for DCA, which can be conducted online or in the pilot's home state, and the vetting process for the smaller "DC-3" airports, which requires pilots to make multiple trips to various locations around Washington, D.C.
"I cannot understand why a Mississippi pilot, who wishes to access one of the outlying airports, must come to the District to be vetted beforehand if pilots who are eligible to access National can take care of it online or in their home state," Thompson told DOT.
AOPA agrees and has asked DOT to make it easier for pilots to get clearance to operate at the DC-3 airports.
"The TSA should utilize the nationwide vetting procedures established for DCA applicants by expanding it to general aviation pilots wanting to gain access to College Park Airport, Potomac Airfield, and Washington Executive/Hyde Field, known as the 'DC-3,'" the association said in formal comments on the rule.
AOPA had previously suggested changes in the DC-3 procedures to make the three general aviation airports close to the nation's capital more accessible to citizens from outside the area. Those suggestions included allowing pilots seeking access authorization to have their papers checked at any FAA flight standards district office (FSDO) and their fingerprints taken at any approved federal or state government facility. Currently pilots can only go to the Baltimore FSDO and Reagan National Airport for fingerprinting to get clearance to fly into the DC-3.
"These changes would reduce the time and financial hardships associated with these requirements," AOPA said. "Both of these changes could be implemented utilizing the DCA process established by this rule."
AOPA also asked for changes in the DCA rule to "allow for timelier access of all general aviation aircraft."
September 29, 2005