Security takes center stage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Many pilots and aircraft owners breathed a huge sigh of relief when President Obama’s budget for 2011 did not contain user fees, but none of the groups working Washington have let their guards down. Not only do user fees remain an issue, but security has raised its ugly head in the wake of the Austin IRS crash.

Another budget must be presented next year and the current administration shows no signs of letting the user fee issue drop. What happens with FAA reauthorization could help determine which way several issues, including user fees, will go. The airlines are not giving up on their push for user fees. Helping to defray the costs of the ATC system is not an issue as important to them as is moving general aviation out of what most airlines consider their airspace.

With user fees at least temporarily off the table, the big push now is security. The pilot who crashed his Piper into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, gave the anti-general aviation interests a dramatic incident to rally around. Many publications have carried editorials and news stories questioning the security of GA aircraft. General aviation interests were already busy on the road, lobbying to keep tighter security measures restricted to heavier aircraft, usually flown by professional crews from larger businesses, which can more easily handle the entanglements that security programs bring.

Austin changed that. The Transportation Department and the National Transportation Safety Board wanted no part of investigating the crash, declaring it was a criminal act, so the Federal Bureau of Investigation was assigned to handle it. That agency is mum. There is some speculation that seats were taken from the Piper and a load of flammable liquid put in their place, which caused the large fire. This has not been confirmed.

Certain members of Congress are using the incident to make security an even bigger issue, pushing the Transportation Security Administration to set out major programs to supposedly make general aviation airports, plane owners, and pilots more secure. Among the leaders is West Virginia Democrat Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller IV. Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, he strongly favors user fees. He continues in his anti-general aviation position, despite the fact his governor declared February “General Aviation Month” in West Virginia, as have officials in nearly a dozen other states.

The situation could be far worse were it not for the work of many, such as the GA caucuses in both houses of Congress, the continued efforts of the alphabet groups, personal contacts by pilots, and the united efforts of the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a conglomeration of pilots and aircraft owners and GA groups, as well as local governments and businesses that rely on GA. As a wise man said, “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

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


  1. Robert Pinnell says

    I think we need to separate the issues here –

    First, the IRS are federal employees implementing the law – if you don’t like income tax, blame you congressmen.

    Second, in considering airport security, the question to ask is “would the proposed changes have prevented this incident/” As Charles Witt’s comment above points out, the answer in this case is NO! The FAA has a long history of using incidents to excuse implementing procedures which restrict GA operations, but which would not have prevented the incident in they had been in effect at the time of the incident.

  2. stove says

    I don’t want to be ‘more safe’. They that sacrifice liberty for
    safety deserve neither, remember? I personally could
    care less what Joe Stack did.
    The IRS has done absolutely
    nothing for the betterment of mankind; only stolen
    the money of a free people and made us miserable…
    I want Big brother government to leave
    G. aviation ALONE.

  3. Malcolm Shute says

    I’ve often wondered why security fences at airports go around the entire
    periphery of the airport. Wouldn’t it be common sense to enclose just
    the arrival/departure slots at the gates?

    Just thinking out loud.

  4. Richard Turner says

    The general public simply does not get it, it is all about governmental control over the people, security is only the vehicle on which they ride. They would like nothing better than to eleminate GA all together. Solving the problem is easy, especially relative to the IRS, honesty in government and the abolishment of the IRS. Had that been the case none of this would have ever happened. If you think we could not opperate without income tax take a look at Have a good day!

  5. Charles R. Wirt says

    IRT the Austin IRS attack, it would be virtuallu impossible for any security system to have prevented that. Assuming a pilot/owner is required to present his pilot certificate, current medical certificate & photo I.D. to some authority to gain access to his airplane, no difference would have been caused. Do we install data transfer plugs in the side of everyone’s skull (including car & truck & bus drivers) to try to weed out the deranged? That or similar would be required.

  6. Jeremy says

    The fools in Washington know nothing about security. Everything they have pushed for so far has failed. Why? Because the issue is not a lack of security. I would like to ask the simple question – “When are the fools in Washington going to wake up and realize that they are the ones causing this mess?”. I cannot condone what that pilot did, but his motivations were guite on target. The government is too big, takes too much, and in the end forces the common people to pay the price for actions that are not our own.

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