The few, the proud, the persistent…

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Homeland Security Department has issued an Interim Flight Rule that will again permit general aviation aircraft to operate into and out of Reagan National Airport. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, GA aircraft have not been permitted at DCA, which is located just across the Potomac River from downtown Washington. The interim rule becomes effective Aug. 18, but the docket is open for comments until Sept. 19.

The interim rule might be a first step toward opening DCA to general aviation, but to paraphrase the U.S. Marine Corps, for now it is only for “”The Few, The Proud, The Persistent.”" Only several on-demand air taxi companies and some corporate operators who frequently come to Washington are expected to use the airport because of the complexity and costs of the security rule.

Certain gateway airports are designated from which aircraft may depart to make DCA their destination. Flight crews must undergo fingerprint-based criminal background checks; FBOs must designate security officers, support the screening of passengers, support search of the aircraft, and adopt a DCA Access Standard Security Program. An armed guard approved by Transportation Security Administration must be aboard. The rule has many more specifics, all of which can be found in the notice placed in the Federal Register. If interested in commenting on the rule, it can be found on the web at GPOAccess.gov/fr/index.html. Call up the issue of July 19, 2005. Background of the rule and its specifics can be found under the Homeland Security Department.

Comments to TSA about the rule may be submitted electronically, by mail or fax. How and where to submit are included in the request for comments.

ADIZ PENALTIES DROPPED FROM APPROPRIATIONS BILL

The Homeland Security Department’s appropriations bill passed the Senate without the amendment offered by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) that would have placed severe penalties on any pilot penetrating the Washington D.C. ADIZ without clearance. An amendment tossed in by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) passed and calls for a government study of general aviationsecurity. The study is supposed to determine the potential for stolen aircraft to be used as weapons at high risk facilities, such as nuclear power plants.

MEDICAL CROSS-CHECK NOT APT TO EXPAND

The database search that tripped up pilots holding valid medical certificates while collecting Social Security disability payments is not likely to be expanded to the total pilot population, informed sources have told General Aviation News.

The Social Security Administration matched its records with 40,000 pilots and found 40 persons receiving benefits while still holding valid flight certificates. Only 14 of these — 13 in Northern California and one in Hawaii — were allegedly guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, either lying to the FAA or wrongly receiving Social Security benefits. Their cases are being handled by a Northern California U.S. Attorney’s office. Several of the pilots found in the cross-check held commercial or Air Transport Pilot ratings, but none flew for commercial airlines.

According to reports by the Associated Press, the cross-check began in 2003, making this a cumbersome, time-consuming effort. This, coupled with concerns about privacy of government records, makes any further efforts unlikely.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington,D.C., correspondent.

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