The State Of Insecurity
States Meddle In Pilot Certification...
Look for the alphabet groups to switch their focus from Michigan to New Jersey in the now-familiar battle to prevent states from getting into the pilot-qualification business. Just as the Michigan House was giving unanimous support to a bill that would repeal that state's criminal background-check law, New Jersey legislators were passing a law that would require, at their own expense, fingerprinting and "background identity checks" for student pilots. New Jersey's already mandates that pilots comply with a mandatory "two-lock" rule. According to the Soaring Society of America (SSA), the current legislation can be interpreted to cover introductory flights (flown by CFIs) as well as regular flight instruction and will become law unless Gov. James McGreevey vetoes it within the next 40 days. The governor is available, here. New Jersey lawmakers are apparently sensitive to the jurisdictional and rights issues they are raising with this measure because it's a considerably watered-down version of the original proposal. The original bill called for criminal record checks of prospective students and their rejection if they'd been convicted of a serious crime. The new version of the law omits all reference to criminal checks but it still makes the identity check a condition of obtaining a student certificate. That, says the SSA, is where New Jersey steps into federal jurisdiction. The SSA is urging its New Jersey members to e-mail the governor, urging him to exercise his veto, using an available form and writing the word "other" in the subject line to ensure the e-mail goes to the right in-box. Presumably they wouldn't mind if powered types joined in.
...Emergency Revocation Appeal Process Floated...
Meanwhile, federal legislators appear to be taking no chances that the so-called "pilot insecurity rule" will be left solely in the hands of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to administer. A few weeks ago, the Senate and House passed their versions of the FAA Reauthorization Bill establishing an independent appeal process for pilots, instructors or mechanics who lose their certificates based on security concerns raised by the TSA. Currently, it's the TSA that hears the appeals. There's no guarantee that language will survive a joint Senate/House committee review that must reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill. Just to be on the safe side, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has included the appeal language in a bill of "technical corrections" to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, thus giving the measure a second chance if it's lost in the FAA bill. The new bill, the Aviation Security Technical Corrections Act of 2003, also tackles some other long-standing security-related issues. For instance, it would require the FAA to get approval from the Department of Homeland Security's under secretary for border and transportation security before imposing any security-related TFRs. Citing the TFRs over Disney theme parks and describing them as "purely commercial," AOPA applauded the chain-of-command measure included in this bill. "The measure demonstrates that the committee understands security-related TFRs must be based on specific and credible threats," said an AOPA news release. The bill would also restore GA access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and put banner towers back in the air over stadiums.
...Plane Paperwork Under Microscope
Your personal paperwork isn't the only object of the government's security watchdogs. The FAA has announced it is going through its aircraft registry, one plane at a time, to ensure that all the documents are in the right place at the right time. Any registration that doesn't meet requirements -- for any reason -- will be flagged as a possible security threat and followed up on by the FAA. The solution for aircraft owners is simple and that's to make sure that all the paperwork is properly done, especially with ownership transfers and other status changes. But AOPA also wants to make sure the FAA is not overzealous in its review. "AOPA's concern is that aircraft owners not be branded potential terrorists due to a clerical error or other innocent mistake," said AOPA VP Melissa Bailey. Meanwhile, as AVweb told you last week, the state paperwork for many Ohio aircraft owners will get a lot more expensive. Despite AOPA's pleas to Gov. Bob Taft, he signed off on legislation that increased the state registration cost of most small planes from $12 a year to $85 a year. AOPA President Phil Boyer said raising registration fees isn't usually a moneymaker for governments. "Attempting to fund aviation maintenance and repair through raising aircraft registration fees will cause aircraft operators to register their aircraft in neighboring states with more attractive fee schedules," Boyer said.