Proposed Bill Eases GA Regs

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DCA Access, Banner Towers And More...

The alphabets are cheering (and taking some credit for) a legislative package that would, among other things, restore charter operations to downtown Washington, get banner towers back in business over outdoor gatherings, smooth foreign flight student regulations and allow third-party appeals of security-related airman certificate suspensions. The Aviation Security Technical Corrections and Improvement Act was approved by the House Subcommittee on Aviation last Wednesday and still must be approved by Congress before any of this relief actually takes place. "Much of what the subcommittee characterizes as 'corrections' are actually vindications for EAA and many other general aviation organizations that have advocated reasonable, prudent security measures that are commensurate with security risks," said EAA's VP of industry and regulatory affairs Earl Lawrence. The National Air Transportation Association is particularly pleased that the bill would force the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow non-scheduled charters back into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where they've been banned since 9/11. A DHS security program would have to be in place before the first flight. NATA joined EAA and the others in applauding the lifting of the ban on stadium banner towers, which was widely criticized as an economic, rather than a security, measure lobbied by major sports groups. The new bill also addresses one of the biggest beefs about the controversial law that allowed the TSA to lift the airman's certificate of anyone deemed a security risk. Under the new bill, U.S. certificate holders would be able to appeal the suspension to a third party. The bill would also smooth the procedure for U.S. flight schools to accept foreign students who have undergone a security check. The bill also would create a small-business ombudsman for the TSA to deal with the financial impact of security measures.

...President Gets GA-Free Zone

While Congress is looking at relieving some of the burden on GA, the TSA and Secret Service have decided that a protective bubble of commercial-only airspace be put around President Bush as he hopscotches around the country supporting his tax-relief bill and beginning his re-election campaign. Friday, EAA said a proliferation of "pop-up presidential TFRs" littered the nation's airspace and the same day filed a formal complaint with the TSA, claiming the TFRs place "a growing hardship" on GA. "General aviation was repeatedly shut out of large blocks of airspace all over the country this week," said EAA VP of government affairs Doug Macnair. AOPA was similarly unimpressed, noting that just about any other kind of flight activity can proceed normally under the TFRs and GA, along with air taxis and on-demand charters, have been targeted as some kind of threat. AOPA President Phil Boyer noted that ATC contact and squawking ATC-assigned transponder codes have been enough to satisfy security concerns in the past. "So what has changed? Is there a specific and credible threat?" Boyer wondered. Meantime, AOPA joins us in advising all pilots to keep an eye on the news to see where the president might be traveling and to always ask about TFRs that might pop up along your intended flight path ... and to steer clear.