Opposition Grows To Security Rule

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Revocation Rule Unconstitutional?...

Pressure is mounting on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to change the controversial rule that allows it to unilaterally force the suspension and revocation of any airman's certificate (mechanics are also subject to the rule). Currently, the only appeal is to the TSA. Don Young (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and the notoriously straight-talking aviation alumni of his home state of Alaska are boiling about the rule. Young has threatened to introduce legislation to quash the "unfair and probably unconstitutional" rule if the TSA doesn't modify it. "I am still very concerned that the rights of pilots may be adversely affected if the rule is implemented as currently written," Young wrote to TSA head Adm. James Loy. Young was particularly upset that the rule was enacted 16 months after 9/11 and without notice. "If there is new intelligence that indicates that pilots are a greater threat, I would like to hear about that from you," he wrote. Young pointed out that the 9/11 hijackers, although they had taken flight training, boarded the aircraft as passengers, suggesting intelligence, immigration and airport security systems were to blame. "This does not justify taking away the rights of U.S. citizen pilots more than 16 months after the fact." Young also said he believes the TSA rules go beyond Congress' intent in that the authority to revoke and suspend certificates is not part of the Aviation and Transportation Act that created the TSA. To date, 11 certificates have been suspended or revoked. All of those were pulled, in secret, last August and all are held by foreign nationals not permitted in the U.S. According to a Saudi Arabian newspaper, two pilots from that country got their U.S. licenses back on Jan. 22.

...AOPA Files Formal Protest...

Seeking "due process," AOPA and Young both recently had telephone chats with Loy and followed up with tough-talking letters. AOPA would like the appeal process to go to the NTSB, which already hears appeals on suspensions and revocations made by the FAA for reasons other than security. "We believe [the rule] undermines one of the most foundational elements of the nation by suspending the rights of U.S. citizens who hold pilot certificates to 'due process,'" AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote to Loy. The rule caught most aviation groups by surprise when it was enacted, without first offering a period for public comment, on Jan. 24. Since much of the evidence against a certificate holder might be gathered from intelligence sources, the rule allows the TSA to keep its reasons for pulling the certificate secret. AOPA also wants enforcement of the rule to be suspended while public comment is gathered and it wants the security threats that can cause a suspension to be publicly defined.

...Banner-Tower Ban Panned

About 10 days ago, Congress quietly passed a law banning banner towing and other aerial advertising over major sports events for the next year. Since 9/11, a three-nm, 3,000-ft. no-fly zone has been imposed on GA traffic over events at stadiums with more than 30,000 seats. Banner towers were able to continue business by undergoing security checks and applying for FAA-issued waivers. The new law, which does not affect certain other aircraft, bars aerial advertisers from getting the waivers for the next year. Julian Hayes, lawyer for the U.S Aerial Advertising Association, told AVweb the group may mount a constitutional challenge of the law. He said the law discriminates against the banner towers because it permits continued access to the airspace by broadcast aircraft and for helicopters used to transport game officials and dignitaries. Hayes said those are commercial uses and Congress can't pick and choose who can fly over a sports stadium. "We (aerial advertisers) have a right to be there," said Hayes. AOPA was also upset at the law, although there were some victories in it for GA. Previously, whenever banner towers were banned from sports events, it had to be done by way of an airspace closure, which often closed down nearby GA airports for the duration of the game. The legislation permits normal traffic to continue at airports within the three-nm zone. AOPA suggested the banner towers made a tactical error in fighting the legislation by opting for court challenges instead of lobbying action. But Hayes said there's no way the small businesses making up the USAAA could have afforded to out-lobby the likes of the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR and the courts are their only realistic option.