Rights of general aviation pilots protected
The pilot insecurity
rule has lost its bite — at least for now. The Transportation
Security Administration has suspended enforcement of the rule that
allowed it to revoke a pilot's certificate for alleged security
AOPA had opposed the rule from the day it was imposed because of
an onerous provision that only allowed a pilot to appeal a
revocation to TSA — the very agency that had ordered the
revocation in the first place! Thanks to an intense lobbying effort
by AOPA on Capitol Hill, Congress ordered TSA to come up with a new
appeal process. Now the agency has said it will not enforce the
rule against U.S. citizens or legal resident aliens until the new
process is in place.
"This little bit of common sense has been a long time coming,"
said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "TSA has to have the tools to
protect our national security, but at the same time, pilots'
constitutional right to due process must be guaranteed."
Under the original
provision, issued in January 2003, as a direct final rule with no
public comment or debate, TSA could instruct the FAA to revoke a
pilot's certificate based on a TSA assessment that the pilot posed
a national security threat. The pilot's only avenue of appeal was
to the TSA. To make matters worse, because the threat assessment
may have been based on intelligence information, the pilot would be
denied access to the evidence needed to prepare a defense against
In addition to working on Capitol Hill for a more equitable
process, AOPA pressed its case directly with TSA. Boyer met with
both Adm. James Loy, administrator at TSA at the time the rule was
imposed, and his successor, Adm. David Stone.
Boyer followed his initial meeting with Stone with a letter,
writing that "while AOPA fully supports the goal of combating
terrorism and has worked closely with the TSA in this effort, this
should not result in undermining one of the most foundational
elements of the nation by suspending the rights of U.S. citizens
who hold pilot certificates to 'due process.'"
In December 2003,
President Bush signed the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which included
a provision directing TSA to develop a new process that allowed a
pilot to appeal the revocation to an impartial third party.
TSA's decision does not do away with the rule that allows
revocation of an airman certificate.
But it does ensure that, once the new procedures are in place,
pilots will have access to due process should TSA implicate