Restoring Freedom To DC

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Seeking Legislation For GA Access...

The latest legislative attempt to broaden access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) has passed the committee stage. Included in the Aviation Security Technical Corrections Act of 2003 are provisions to allow non-scheduled carriers back into the metropolitan airport. The bill has been passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and will go before the full House, although no timetable has been set. Under the bill, the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service would develop a security program for the non-scheduled carriers. An amendment also passed that would allow non-commercial business aircraft into DCA under an approved security process. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) lauded both measures, saying the bill sends a message to the federal security bureaucracy. "This measure provides the necessary Congressional impetus to force the federal transportation security apparatus to reopen our nation's capital airport to non-scheduled commercial operations," said NATA President James Coyne. The National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) was pleased with the amendment that would allow its members back in to DCA and also noted the broader effects of such a move. NBAA VP Pete West said that about 60,000 GA movements were recorded annually at DCA before 9/11, about a third of the total traffic. The GA ban has caused about $40 million in direct losses to airport businesses and also hurt access to other businesses in the D.C. area. The NBAA says it has early indications the Senate will look favorably on the bill and its amendment.

...FAA Says It's TSA's Call

Meanwhile, the FAA seems to be distancing itself from the whole DCA debate. The agency has passed the buck on reopening the airport to non-scheduled services. In a letter to NATA, the FAA said it's "not the final authority on security concerns" and passed NATA's request to the TSA. NATA had formally petitioned the FAA to lift the charter ban at DCA. In its letter, the FAA said the Department of Homeland Security calls the tune on such matters and the FAA just does the footwork. "We have reviewed your petition and are sympathetic to your needs," the letter reads. It goes on to say that the Department of Homeland Security makes the call on security issues and FAA implements the required measures. NATA President James Coyne said the FAA's sidestepping, while disappointing, is not a setback in the petition effort. "We intend to aggressively pursue this with the TSA," said Coyne. "... There is no rational reason why non-scheduled commercial air carriers should not be allowed access into the primary airport serving the nation's capital."