The U.S. Senate today unanimously confirmed the nomination of Judge Michael Chertoff to be Secretary of Homeland Security, a position with tremendous influence over how general aviation pilots can operate.
Even following Judge Chertoff's confirmation hearings before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is still trying to confirm his position on general aviation as it relates to national security. Nothing he has said either before his nomination or since has given a clear indication of whether or not he considers GA a threat.
"Now that the full Senate has confirmed Judge Chertoff's nomination, AOPA plans to ask for a meeting as soon as possible to make sure he understands the important role GA plays in American day-to-day life," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Judge Chertoff has a reputation as a quick study, so even if he does not know much about GA, we hope that he'll see why it's so important to find common-sense ways to address national security concerns without causing undue burdens on GA pilots."
One positive sign during his confirmation was that Chertoff told the Senate panel that he thought the time has come for the Department of Homeland Security to begin focusing on other modes of transportation the way it has focused on aviation for the past three and a half years.
"Aviation - and general aviation in particular - has borne the brunt of government security-related restrictions," said Boyer, "while other types of transportation with far greater potential as terrorist weapons have received relatively little scrutiny.
"It's too soon to know if Judge Chertoff's testimony means that general aviation will no longer be unfairly singled out," Boyer continued. "We hope that, like his predecessor, Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff will carefully weigh the potential negative impact of national security measures."
The more than 404,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil aviation organization. AOPA is committed to striking a common-sense balance that fulfills national security needs while protecting aircraft owners and pilots from overly burdensome regulations.
February 15, 2005