Feb. 20, 2004 - AOPA senior staff members met with the sponsor of a sweeping aviation security bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, to explain the realities of general aviation security. Most of Rep. Edward Markey's (D-Mass.) legislation (H.R. 3798) deals with security at airlines, air cargo operators, and air carrier airports, but a small portion calls GA airports to perform a vulnerability assessment that will be developed by the Department of Homeland Security and mandatory flight restrictions over sensitive nuclear facilities, chemical facilities, and "any other facilities the Secretary may designate" during Code Orange alerts.
"We wanted Representative Markey to understand why the GA portion of his bill is neither necessary or warranted," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula.
AOPA has a long-running disagreement with Rep. Markey over whether or not general aviation poses a threat to nuclear facilities. An AOPA-commissioned independent study showed GA aircraft are no threat.
"On the issue itself, we'll have to agree to disagree," said Cebula. "He hasn't convinced us, we haven't convinced him.
"But we explained that mandating temporary flight restrictions over nuclear power plants and chemical facilities whenever there's a Code Orange is a bad idea," Cebula continued. "For instance, a Code Orange alert could be issued based on information that has absolutely nothing to do with aviation. Yet under Rep. Markey's bill, the Department of Homeland Security would have no choice but to order the FAA to issue flight restrictions. We say let DHS make its decisions based on the intelligence, not an arbitrary rule."
On the issue of general aviation airport security, Jon Hixson, AOPA's vice president of Legislative Affairs, explained that, "mandating a vulnerability assessment is at best premature and really not necessary." The Transportation Security Administration is finishing a list of best practices that will help GA airports determine their risk. "We think TSA should be allowed to finish its work and collect its information before Congress imposes any related mandates."