Deadlines, Schmedlines

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One of the more interesting reminders to come from the testimony presented at yesterday's field hearing on non-scheduled access to DCA involved three provisions in the FAA's reauthorization bill, which was enacted on Dec. 12, 2003. Among other things, that bill authorized up to $100 million in federal funds to be used "to reimburse ... general aviation entities for the security costs incurred and revenue foregone" resulting from federally imposed security-based restrictions. Two other things the bill did were to mandate that the Secretary of Homeland Security "develop and implement a security plan to permit general aviation aircraft to land and take off at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport" and to require the FAA to submit, within 30 days after the bill was enacted, "a report containing an explanation of the need for" the Washington ADIZ. Based on TSA Acting Administrator David M. Stone's statement that a plan was in the works, that action could come sooner, rather than later.

The reimbursement provision sought to provide some measure of relief to GA-related businesses, such as the Signature Flight Support FBO based at DCA, the DC-3 airports and other operators throughout the country who were restricted or forced to close their doors in the face of the TFRs, Enhanced Class B airspace or outright groundings. Of course, $100 million is chump change compared to the billions Uncle Sugar shoveled out to the scheduled airlines in late 2001. So far, however, Congress has put no money in the pipeline to fund this reimbursement program and it's not likely that any will be "found" in the next few months.

Similar inaction on the FAA's part has resulted in the agency's completely ignoring the requirement for it to report to Congress on the need for the Washington ADIZ. (Memo To FAA: On the off chance no one there has a calendar, AVweb is happy to help -- just add 30 days to Dec. 12, 2003, and you get Jan. 12, 2004. That was roughly two months ago.) Although the directive that the Secretary of Homeland Security develop a GA security plan for DCA did not include a deadline, neither did TSA Acting Administrator David M. Stone announce a firm ETA in his testimony yesterday.

Instead, he outlined this process:

"TSA is working on devising a security plan, consistent with Section 823, which will then be coordinated within DHS and other federal agencies that are charged with responsibility for securing the National Capital Region. Other components within DHS that will consider the issue include the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Secret Service. Outside of DHS, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration will also be involved. In working toward a solution, the issue has been and will continue to be discussed at length within the Airspace Protection Workgroup, which was chartered by the Homeland Security Council to discuss various aviation issues involving the National Capital Region. We will also consult with interested Committees in Congress as our work progresses. When the specific details of the proposed security measures are fully developed and coordinated within the Executive Branch, the plan will be finalized and its non-security sensitive elements will be published in the Federal Register."
Meanwhile, business aircraft operators should not forget to install an emergency locator transmitter (the FAA's deadline for carrying them aboard small jets was Jan. 1, 2004), conduct their annual inspections, or install reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) compliant equipment by January 2005. Gotta meet those deadlines, folks.