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GA security gets attention on Capitol Hill

Aircraft flying internationally are receiving more scrutiny on Capitol Hill, but at the same time officials are finally recognizing a security distinction between small general aviation airplanes and large aircraft.

Testifying before Congress on September 5, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the House Homeland Security Committee that he will be unveiling a plan soon to tighten security standards for GA aircraft entering the country from overseas.

He said that his department will propose a rule in order to implement a provision in the recently enacted 9/11 law. The rule would require private aircraft to furnish passenger manifests prior to departure. Currently, aircraft do this upon arrival.

Chertoff mentioned that the department is also considering some additional regulations regarding the vetting of flight crews on private aircraft. These requirements could go beyond aircraft arriving from international destinations.

"We've already been in discussions with Customs and Border Patrol and the Transportation Security Administration about security for international arrivals," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "We want to make sure that any new process makes sense for GA pilots and can easily be met."

Chertoff did acknowledge a distinction between aircraft that are under 12,500 pounds versus those that are over. "There is a certain cutoff because of the dangers of the aircraft itself with the fuel becoming a much more effective weapon as opposed to a smaller thing like a Piper Cub," he said.

"AOPA has maintained all along that small GA aircraft do not pose a significant threat to national security," Cebula added. "This is backed up by numerous studies and government analysis and now the secretary's own comments."

September 6, 2007

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