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Responsibility and Fun are Not in Conflict – But Try Telling That to Congress

capitol_domeSometimes, on a beautiful clear night, John and I will fly over the Los Angeles basin and look down on some of its 13 million people coursing along on the freeways, every car making its own way and going about its business, independently, with no direction or control from anyone.  It makes you think about how our country works.  Each person is going about his or her business making decisions to further their lot in life, but it all adds up to a productive economy.

That came to mind the other day as I was preparing to give my recent testimony before the Congressional Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection.  I was being coached for the questions I might get.  I was told I would be asked why we flew our own airplane from San Diego to Washington, when there was perfectly good airline service between those cities.  The correct answer is that it is a lot more fun to fly your own airplane than to ride on the airlines.  But I couldn’t give that answer.  I had to give them practical, business reasons.  We had those reasons, but the real one was an unacceptable one—fun.

Martha King testifies before the Congressional Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection
Martha King testifies before the Congressional Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection

The subject of the July 15 Congressional hearing was TSA’s proposal to require very strict rules for aircraft that happen, like ours, to weigh more than 12,500 pounds.  The TSA proposal included such things as requiring us to submit a list of our passengers to TSA and get approval to carry them in our aircraft every time—even if they had been approved to go with us before.  Also included was a prohibition from carrying some 80 items, such as golf clubs and other instruments that the TSA deemed to be potentially dangerous.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTOk-ltItcs&rel=0]

The concern is, where will this stop?  If the TSA gets this rule through, will we then have similar rules for smaller airplanes?

The good news is that TSA has had a wake-up call.  They have heard from some 7,000 pilots, and they are paying attention.  NBAA has been a strong advocate for GA, and is continuing to negotiate in our behalf with the TSA.  We will have to accept some form of control on large airplanes—after all, this is the TSA—but we might get away with just background checks for the pilots, who will then be responsible for who and what is carried on the airplane.  Not a big deal—pilots have always been responsible for that. 

But the tone of the Congressional hearing did make me wonder.  Will there be a time when flying an aircraft just for fun will not be acceptable?

As I write this we are getting ready for AirVenture—the world’s ultimate celebration of the fun in flying.  Given the experience of defending before Congress our ability to fly, I am eager to share in this celebration.  If you go to Oshkosh this year, and I hope you will, come hear our talk on Wednesday July 29 at 1 pm, in the FAA building.  We hope we can help you better manage the risks we all take whenever we leave the ground.  Better yet, stop by our booth in Exhibit Hangar A.  We’ll have some specials to make your flying more fun that you won’t be able to pass up.

Martha

21 Comments

  1. Brian Turrisi

    Martha: Thanks for the commnets. I live in the DC area and fly in the SFRA and FRZ regularly. Missed you at COPA Migration in Duluth. Would love to help in any way I can as I agree our freedoms are being eroded even as the latest Inspector General’s report to the Congress stated that GA is anot a real threat to security.
    Thanks for your input!
    brian

  2. Betty Ramsland

    Freedom of movement of American citizens is really what it’s all about; thank you for saying that. And thank you for taking the time and energy to try and get Washington to understand GA before they enact yet another piece of legislation that takes away even more of our civil liberties.

  3. Gerald Sharp

    Your analogy about traffic flow, as independent, orderly, free to choose our own direction
    versus gov’t intrusion is very good. Excellent in fact. I plan to use it often.
    I am retired with a little 4 seater and all I do is fly for fun. Thanks for testifying.
    Semper Fi!

    Gerald Sharp

  4. Bruce Allport

    Martha,

    Thank you for your great contributions to General Aviation, including your testimony before Congress.

    What a shame that “I want it and I earned it ” and “it’s fun” can’t be included in the reasons we fly. Including those reasons might have even added a note of credibility to the ligimate business reasons, which may sound like justifications to the layman.

    Keep up the great work, and how about offering a stand-alone course on FOI for Ground Instructor aspirants.

    Bruce Allport,
    Finally a student pilot at 65!

  5. Clague Hodgson

    Thanks, Martha, for your insightful comments and actions, which are badly needed. I am reminded of the time someone flew a Cirrus into a building in New York soon after 9-11. This was an accident, but in the terror hysteria of the moment they discussed banning general aviation entirely. Finally, someone mentioned that a bomb or suicide attack could more easily be carried out by a car, should they ban all cars as well?

  6. Jim Minetti

    Thank you Martha for stepping up to the plate, taking your hard-earned time and money, and helping to defend all our rights. Those such as yourself have a high degree of exposure so it is incumbent upon you and others like you to plead our case, but it is not exclusively your responsibility to carry the load alone.

    Folks have to understand that this is only a setback for the TSA and that the next onslaught is on the way. We can’t expect the likes of Martha and John King to step up on every issue. Harrison Ford will burn out and Morgan Freeman will find other things to do.

    Relying on 3 celebrities to carry the load for 500,000 pilots is inexcusable so I encourage everyone to take a few minutes a week to petition congress and others on your own behalf. Attend local meetings and make the public aware of the TSA’s land-grab because whether they know it or not, they are next in line. We need to push back from all quarters, not just through a few messages from high-profile representatives.

    The TSA is interested in expanding its base and it is easy to sell the public on the exchange of liberty for security – even if it is only “security theater”.

    Or you can simply continue to read messages like this and hope someone else will carry the load for you.

  7. Alex Wilcox

    Martha – great note. Maybe a better way to link the fun of flying back to our “fun”damental freedoms is to say “it makes me happy.” What congressman, even today, is going to come out against the pursuit of happiness?

  8. Steve Durrett

    Mrs. King, why did you fly your own airplane when there is perfectly good airline service?

    BECAUSE I CAN! Why should I have to justify myself to any of you self-serving, power-grabbing, wool-coated globs?

    Now that would have made for a nice sound bite on CNN.

    Where is John Galt?

  9. Gary Stevens

    I agree with Mr. Durrett. It’s about time the citizens start talking back and taking back our freedoms.

    Ask congressional leaders when was the last time they took public transportation and rode on an airliner.

  10. DAVID MCCURDY

    IT IS A SHAME WHEN OUR OWN GOVERNMENT ATTACKS THE LIBERTIES OF IT’S CITIZEN’S WITH NO REGARD. UNFORTUNATELY THE WASHINGTON SCENE ONLY KNOW’S OF ONE AVENUE TO DEAL WITH AMERICAN’S.

    TAKE, TAKE TAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    THANKS FOR SPENDING YOUR TIME IN WASHINGTON FIGHTING FOR THE REAL AMERICA MARTHA!

    I ONLY HOPE THAT THE EFFORT’S OF REAL AMERICAN’S ARE NOT IN VANE.

  11. Dennis Mitchell

    As a young man I would look up at the skies and wonder what the scenery was like from up there. I am now a student pilot looking forward to the freedoms of flying. Taking the grandkids out for a morning tour of “the patch”. Or zipping over to Ft. Worth to visit my brother for the weekend. I can also see great potential for my business. But if TSA gets their way and put’s great restrictions on GA pilots and passengers, what’s the point (or fun) in flying private aircraft? Will my friends and family have to take their shoes off before boarding MY plane?

    Thank you Martha for pleading the case for all of us in the GA community.

    Dennis R. Mitchell

  12. Ed Cook

    I used to think the most “non-standard” group in aviation was the FAA, however, it has been replaced by the TSA. I do believe the FAA, for the most part, trys to help us. I have come to that conclusion after fifty years of flying. The TSA is definately NOT here to help us. I am reminded of Ben Franklin’s quote, “those who surrender their freedom for security, will have, nor deserve, either.
    Ed Cook

  13. Michael John Dennis

    Hello from Manchester, UK – As disgraceful as this is, in many respects this has been the case here in Europe and especially here in the UK – stopping people from flying, becoming a pilot or becoming involved in GA in any way for any reason or for any lame excuse, or on any other false pretexts, is an unacceptable symptom of something much wider going on in our world with many kinds of issues in the UK press, but sadly people here have become resigned to this as thier fate and this is illustrated by the Gary Mc Kinnion Case – I am Irish, Catholic and fly regulary between Manchester in the UK, where I live, and my native Dublin, Ireland and I constantly see Muslims being unfairly detained at airports (I work in retail with Pakistani & Somali Muslims) and this is only one example, so I cant possibly see who I can even gain a PPL due to costs being so high, despite the fact there is a serious shortage of qualified airline pilots globally and I would love to fly GA from Manchester (Barton) to Dublin (Weston) but the UK’s CAA will not allow it – we have become accustomed to this for many years and you Americans are now only starting to get a taster of what this is like and what is yet to come – this must not be allowed to happen in America, please fight this tooth and nail, Americans must not accept this

  14. Cole Weidenbusch

    Martha, thanks for your thoughts and for your testimony. As a retired military pilot and a retired airline pilot, I had hoped my “golden years” of GA flying would be as you described — for fun and pleasure, and for the enjoyment of traveling in my plane on my schedule to destinations of my choosing. Unfortunately, there are too many in authority for whom freedom means lack of control.

    But what’s worse is the dismal number of people who commented on TSA’s power grab. Only 6,999 others besides me out of 500,000 felt threatened by the heavy hand of government in the name of security? That’s only about 1.4 % of pilots!! And pilots aren’t even 1/10th of 1% of the population! Let me remind my fellow pilots that we are a PARTICIPATORY democracy, and if we don’t participate, then we’re ignored. Just think what it might have been like if there had been 70,000 comments — TSA might have been told by Congress to scrap the idea altogether!

    I hate the idea of having to constantly monitor my government to ward off further intrusions into my privacy and limit the restrictions being daily imposed on my rights and freedoms. But that’s part of democracy — fighting the tyranny of the unaware, unconcerned, uninformed, uneducated majority as they are manipulated into supporting the shredding of our liberties and the denial of our freedoms.

  15. Sean T O'Brien

    I’m glad you spoke up; chances are this would have been something no one would have known about until regulations were published. Now the rest of us had better start paying attention and expressing ourselves through our represenatives and at the voting booth.

  16. Michael John Dennis

    This issue also has an international dynamic – Many EU (including British & Irish) pilots in particular come to train in the US – the TSA by its disgraceful and outrageous actions are in fact having a negative impact upon safety if they continue to act in this unjustified manner – we here in the UK have similar issues and recently a petition was handed into British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at No 10 Downing St – with the amount of silly regluations here, I dearly wish that there was a Commons Select Committee to look into the issues here, but sadly they would perhaps be overruled by Brussels & Strasbourg

  17. Richard Lemieux

    Marsha (and John), thank you so much for being “our” voice in Washington. I support you 100%. I’m retired and a 66 year old student pilot(hello Bruce Allport) flying for fun and in that vein spending more than a few bucks to contributing to the local economy but most of all having FUN. I am a Vietnam veteran and willing to lay my life down for freedom in America until my dying breath!
    My fellow citizens follow this debate, determine who politically who is trying to deprive us of our freedom and VOTE THEM OUT! You mustn’t sit on the sidelines moaning, you must participate before you lose that right, too!
    Write to your congresspersons about your concerns AND how you’re going to VOTE. Thank you.

  18. Marc Zorn

    It is very sad that the choice of flight in the public eye has been narrowed to airline service or nothing. The truth of the matter is that airline service hasn’t been “perfectly good” in decades. It has become very unpleasant for any number of reasons that all of us can easily cite. What’s even sadder is that better alternatives are being systematically maligned by the suggestion that they are a substantive risk to national security, which we as pilots know is preposterous.

    Thank you so much for making a difference. Let’s hope they were listening and carefully considering what you had to say.

  19. Adam Carangelo

    What a remark of taking an airline. You can make the remark why not take a bus to take you family to the beach, or take a bus for everything. We should band all means of personal transportation. I guess when you make it to congress you lose you mind. It is not just fun to fly it gives many people jobs. You have FBOs, hotels, rent a car places, fuel, the list goes on and on, large and small cites that depend on the income that each and every plane generates coming into town big or small. If we make it hard for people to learn how to fly then who will fly the big planes for the airlines. It would be a total disaster, There would be a shortage of “real pilots” to fly our family safely. The airlines will only be able to hire pilots with just a few hundred hours under there belts and not the pilots who put there time in and learned things that you could never learn from a text book or a video. I will never forget when I received my private ticket, When I pasted I was told this is your “license to learn” I have been flying for almost 6 years now and I have learned so much more flying then I could ever learn from the class room and I still learn everyday. If I was there I would tell congress if you want to keep you family safe then let the pro’s deal with this and keep out of it or you will have a pilot with not many hours with now experience trying to fly you family in bad weather safely home. I am sure you would not what a new doctor who just got of of medschool to do open hart surgery on you or your loved one I would guess you would want the doctor who has done one or two before. That is the same for the pilots who flies your family around but only that pilot has more then one life to worrier about he may have your whole family on board. Good job King schools keep up the good work.

  20. Drake

    They aren’t going to stop at this. The evil terrorists in charge want to curtail our right to travel, our right to own property, and all other freedoms that scare them.
    This is a totalitarian government. We are enscrewed. I just blew thousands on
    learning to fly for no reason at all. Very angry citizen here.

  21. Guy Cooper

    Martha,

    Thank you to you and John for your continued efforts – you don’t know it, but you and John have shared the most wonderful journey with me from Private to Commercial and finally to my CFI ratings. King Schools has been with me every step of the way.

    I find it so hard to believe that our government now wants to supress such a vibrant yet responsible community. Many people are in awe when I tell them how much hard work and study was involved in getting my ratings. Most just think you hop in the airplane and go wherever you want. To some extent that could be said to be true, however when you show them all the planning, the regulations, the licenses we are required to have, they quickly reconsider!

    I currently have 3 students working towards their licenses and it saddens me to think that there are people out there vehemently trying to dampen their enjoyment of aviation.
    I also fly professionally for a company – flying and managing a Beech Baron. I can only imagine what kind of curbs will be placed on us in the next 5 years.
    Hopefully America will wake up and tell the government to stay out of our business – we can only pray!

    Best to you and John,

    Guy Cooper
    CFI/CFII/MEI
    Commercial Pilot

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