General aviation will have to wait until later this month to learn how it might be affected by the aviation security bill signed November 19 by President Bush in a ceremony at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). Ironically, or perhaps symbolically, DCA remains closed to all Part 91 and Part 135 operations.
Although it is primarily aimed at Part 121 commercial airlines, the legislation requires that a newly created under secretary for transportation security report back to Congress within 30 days on airspace procedures and other security measures that can be instituted on an as-needed basis to improve general aviation safety.
Other provisions that affect GA include one that would “encourage” the Transportation Department to apply the same provisions granted to the airlines regarding war-risk insurance directly to vendors, agents and subcontractors of air carriers for all of their domestic operations, and another that would require notification of the U.S. attorney general of aliens seeking flight training, including simulator training, in aircraft having an mtow of 12,500 lb or more.
An amendment introduced by Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.) that would have required a security program for aircraft weighing 12,500 lb or less–including crewmembers, passengers, baggage handlers, maintenance workers and other individuals with access to such aircraft–was changed to require the new DOT security chief to report to Congress on how GA security could be improved.
“This is not a mandate for change as the original bill called for, but a study and report,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer.
The aviation security bill, which was a compromise between different versions passed first by the Senate and then by the House, replaces private baggage screeners with a 28,000-strong federal workforce. It also orders strengthened cockpit doors–which major airlines have already installed–puts federal sky marshals on board aircraft and grants wide authority to the Transportation Department’s head of security to implement the new rules.