Owners of ex-military aircraft are up in arms over a rider to the Senate bill to appropriate military funds for next year. The Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, S.1438, deals mostly with appropriations for regular military expenses but contains a small section, or rider, calling for the “demilitarization” of “significant military equipment” formerly belonging to the DOD. Such equipment could include valuable surplus aircraft now owned and flown by collectors and aviation history enthusiasts.
Groups such as the EAA Warbirds of America maintain that the language of the rider is too vague, and could someday be interpreted to mean that all such aircraft would be required to be rendered unflyable.
The House version of the appropriations bill was passed earlier this year and does not contain the offending rider. The two bills are now in congressional conference committee, where differences are ironed out and the final bill is presented to the President for signature. In the interim, the EAA Warbirds, AOPA and other groups are canvassing their membership to write to their congressmen insisting that the “demilitarization” language be removed from the final version of the bill before it becomes law.
This is not the first time around for this legislation. A similar rider was attached to another bill last year, but the anti-warbird language was successfully removed before the bill passed. Bob Tulius of Sebring, Fla., a member of the EAA Warbirds of America and owner of a North American P-51 Mustang, told AIN, “Someone in the bowels of the Pentagon wants this legislation passed. We’re not sure who it is or why they are so intent on getting it through. But it makes no sense. To top it off, not only would I not receive compensation for the loss of value to my property, but I would be responsible for paying to have my Mustang rendered unairworthy, or face the option of surrendering it to the government.”