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AOPA members speak out about TSA security proposalAOPA members speak out about TSA security proposal

Citing the erosion of basic civil liberties, expanded government regulation and intrusion into general aviation, and a drain on economic resources, AOPA members are saying the Transportation Security Administration’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program is unacceptable as is.

“A focus on a reasonable level of security for GA is a wise policy initiative, but it must be aimed at addressing a real problem, not a theoretical threat,” one member wrote to AOPA. “The administrative and compliance burden [this plan would] place on operators is disproportionate to the threat.”

AOPA President Phil Boyer took the opportunity to share those concerns directly with TSA chief Kip Hawley in a meeting earlier this week.

The proposal, which opened Oct. 30 for comment on the Federal Register, applies to aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds and calls for flight crewmember criminal history records checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, biennial third-party audits of each aircraft operator, and new airport security requirements.

AOPA members are concerned that the request to check GA passenger manifests with the TSA’s watch list could infringe on citizens’ right to travel and right to privacy. GA aircraft operations, even for large aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, are much different that air carrier operations: Pilots usually know all of their passengers personally and should not be required to check them against a terrorist watch list.

The proposed mandate for third-party audits of each aircraft operator has also sparked opposition from members.

“Many questions surround the TSA’s proposal to outsource its security oversight responsibilities,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “Members are naturally concerned about a plan that requires inspections by third parties.”

While the majority of AOPA members are not directly affected by the rule because they fly aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds, they’ve said the issue is important to them because it could eventually expand to all GA operations.

“This proposed rule represents the next step on a slippery slope to restrict GA freedoms,” one member wrote.

“Members have made their concerns loud and clear to AOPA,” said Spence. “Now they need to directly tell the government their opinion by commenting on this rule in the Federal Register. It’s the voices of many that make a difference.”

The proposal will be open for comment until Dec. 29. Comments can be submitted online or sent via U.S. mail to: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001. Identify your comments with Docket No. TSA-2008-0021.

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