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TSA Aviation Proposals Raise Civil Liberties Questions

EAA and allies appeal for extension of comment period

October 29, 2008 — Upon receiving and reviewing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the Transportation Security Administration issued today, EAA immediately objected to the posted public-comment period of only 60 days. The NPRM calls for sweeping new security requirements on the operation of all aircraft exceeding 12,500 pounds – commercial and personal-use aircraft alike.

Because of the onerous requirements and encroachment on personal freedoms suggested in the NPRM, EAA contends that the NPRM should have a comment period of no less than 120 days. Several allies, including Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, an active EAA member, have joined EAA in filing objections to the comment period's 60-day duration.

"These proposed rules would have dramatic ramifications for aircraft operators," said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. “Furthermore, they raise serious questions in the areas of interstate commerce, government authority, civil liberties, and Constitutional rights. Rulemaking proposals that present the potential for such dramatic consequences require more than a mere 60 days for public to study and comment on them.”

The TSA's proposed rules would impose numerous requirements on the operators of these aircraft, even those operating the aircraft for private and personal use, including the following:

  • The owner/operator must assign a security director to oversee flight operations.
  • The security director must obtain TSA approval for the security program associated with every operation of the aircraft.
  • The security program must be audited and approved by the TSA.
  • The owner/operator must submit fingerprints of all flight-crew members to the TSA.
  • The owner/operator must submit a passenger manifest for each flight to the TSA.

"Once again we're seeing an unwarranted and unrealistic hyper-focus on airplanes as potential instruments of terror, when real-life experience shows that trucks, automobiles, and computers can pose equal, or even greater, threats. This is about our nation's ongoing struggle to strike the right balance between upholding the personal freedoms and rights that make our country great and taking the necessary steps to address and prevent legitimate threats to our security," Lawrence said.

"We haven't seen undue restrictions on the use of trucks, for example, because there's an understanding that these are important to interstate commerce and the personal freedom to move persons and objects about the country. We need to foster the same understanding when it comes to the role of personal aircraft in our society," Lawrence said.

The NPRM's 60-day comment period expires Dec. 29, 2008. If the TSA adopts the recommendation of EAA and its allies, the 120-day comment period would end March 31, 2009.

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