Sometimes, 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.
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.
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.