Jan. 8, 2004 - General aviation isn't the threat, but it is part of the solution. That was the message AOPA President Phil Boyer gave to the new acting head of the Transportation Security Administration, Rear Admiral David M. Stone.
In a meeting yesterday afternoon in Washington, D.C., Boyer along with AOPA senior VP of government affairs Andy Cebula explained the important role GA plays in the modern transportation system, and how federal security actions have affected pilots' lawful use of their aircraft.
"I came to this initial meeting concerned that it would be difficult for the new person to match the 'customer service' skills of the previous TSA administrator, Admiral James Loy," said Boyer. "It was a pleasant surprise to find a very different person, but one with a sense of inquisitiveness and concern for the general aviation community, and someone who I believe we can work with to accomplish goals to satisfy the nation's security in these troubled times, but also to allow GA to operate with a minimum of restrictions and new regulations."
Adm. Stone was appointed Acting TSA Administrator in December, the third head of the security agency in two years. Pulling from the security vocabulary for the briefing, Boyer told Stone that AOPA staff had "infiltrated" the agency since its establishment in November 2001, and enjoyed good working relationships at all levels.
However, there had been and would continue to be "engagements" on some contentious issues, particularly the "pilot insecurity rule," which had allowed TSA to revoke an airman's certificate without an independent third-party review. As Stone started to explain the issue from his perspective, Boyer reminded him that AOPA had worked with Congress to pass legislation requiring TSA implement an independent review to protect pilots' rights. (That law is part of the FAA reauthorization bill that President Bush signed December 12.)
TFRs are another point of conflict. Boyer explained that AOPA understands and supports temporary flight restrictions driven by legitimate security considerations, but the association adamantly opposed TFRs imposed simply to satisfy political considerations. TFRs must be rationally sized, work operationally, and be issued far enough in advance so that pilots can reasonably understand and comply with them.
Boyer noted how the general aviation community, and AOPA in particular, continues to be an effective and proactive security partner with the government.
AOPA has been leading the pack in notifying pilots about security concerns. The association pushed for graphical TFRs from the FAA, and created the free-to-members AOPA Real Time Flight Planner that draws TFRs on a map. AOPA also sends email Airspace Alerts to pilots whenever an airspace restriction will affect their region.
AOPA's Airport Watch was cited as another example of the association's efforts to protect American security.
Boyer also asked the TSA head to be even-handed in its public statements about security actions. For example, he noted that over the New Year's holiday the media prominently reported that small aircraft had been banned from flying over Las Vegas, yet security precautions imposed on other transportation modes didn't receive as much attention.
Rear Admiral Stone was previously deputy chief of staff at TSA headquarters. He was TSA's first federal security director at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). He retired from active naval duty in April 2002.