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EAA Takes Members’ Concerns About Security Restrictions to House Aviation Subcommittee

March 9, 2009 — March 10, 2009 – EAA today seized another opportunity to defend aviators’ privileges and American citizens’ civil liberties in the face of burdensome security proposals. Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations, joined top officials from AOPA, GAMA, AAAE, and NBAA this morning as speakers at a roundtable discussion with members of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Aviation.

Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-WI) convened the meeting to examine the Transportation Security Administration’s proposed security requirements for aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or more. These restrictions, known as the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), would require the development of a security program for each aircraft, flight crew background checks, prohibition on the carriage of many personal and business-related items, and screening of passengers before each operation of aircraft in this weight category. (Learn more about the LASP.)

Macnair told the Subcommittee that EAA members, who use their aircraft for personal travel, recreation, and some business purposes, want Congress to know that the TSA’s proposal delves into new and dangerous territory with regard to government intrusion into the lives of private citizens. “The government has never before proposed to approve or disapprove the movement of private citizens in their own personal conveyances within their own country. This is taking us as a nation to a place we do not want to go.” Macnair said. “The price of this proposal in terms of lost freedoms is not worth its purported security benefit.”

He also questioned the role envisioned for aviators in the TSA proposals. “The LASP asks pilots to act as agents of the federal government. It would require the general aviation community to run security checks, for instance, on children and grandparents who are passengers on weekend recreational flights,” he said.

In today’s meeting, the general aviation organizations reiterated their request for a negotiated rulemaking process for the LASP so that all issues and ramifications may be carefully considered.

None of the Subcommittee members present spoke in support of the LASP. Costello and Petri expressed grave reservations about both the rule’s imposition on the general aviation industry during a weak economic period and its civil-liberties ramifications.

Representatives John Duncan (R-TN) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), among others, not only criticized the content of the proposal, but also, and more fundamentally, questioned the need.

Representative Charles Dent (R-PA), a member of both the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which the Subcommittee on Aviation reports, offered pointed questions for the TSA representatives about the need to impose on personal aviation the types of security measures that apply to commercial-aviation operations. Representative Leonard Boswell (D-IA), a general aviation pilot, stated that TSA should be thanking the general aviation community — instead of adding burdensome rules — for the community’s efforts to voluntarily address perceived vulnerabilities to this point.

A senior TSA representative was present at the session to outline the reasoning behind the rule proposal and answer questions posed by the Subcommittee members. The TSA proposal attracted more than 5,000 comments during the public comment period that ended February 27. Nearly all the comments opposed the TSA proposal.

Chairman Costello closed the meeting by stating that he hoped TSA would work closely with the industry representatives present at today’s meeting to either eliminate the proposal or find an appropriate and workable alternative to the proposed rule. Barring that, he made clear Congress’ preparedness to address the matter itself.

“EAA and its members very much appreciate the efforts of the House Aviation Subcommittee leadership and members to address this critical issue,” Macnair said. “By holding this roundtable discussion and sharing their perspectives, the Subcommittee members showed that they understand the immediate threat to general aviation posed by the proposed TSA security program.”

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