Post 9/11 Next Steps for General Aviation Security

Analysis of what changes could be made

aircraft over 12,500 pounds. This rule, dubbed by experts the "Twelve-Five

Rule," became law as part of the FAA reauthorization legislation in 2002.

Additional federal legislation requires that flight school instructors be

trained in identifying suspicious circumstances and activities of individuals

enrolling or attending a flight school.

On the domestic end, U.S. student pilots must show a government-issued

photo I.D. to verify their identity before enrolling in flight school, and many

flight schools require instructors to be present any time a student pilot is on

the tarmac or near training aircraft.

The Heritage Foundation study advocates a Trusted Pilot Program. This

program would be vital in preventing general aviation from shutting down

completely in the event of another terrorist attack or natural disaster. A

trusted pilot program with certification for first responders, for example,

would ensure that they are always granted access to the air to respond to

emergencies that might shut down U.S. airspace. This program would also speed up

customs inspections for trusted pilots when they re-enter American airspace from


With the numerous databases already in use in the Department of

Transportation, the TSA, the FAA, and the private sector, interoperability is

the key to inter-agency security cooperation. Making the databases and watch

lists available to everyone in the GA sector will ensure that pilots and flight

students are checked against every source of information before they are allowed

in the sky.

Establishing secure credentials for pilot certificates and credentials is

also critical, the authors believe. National standards for these credentials

should be established to obtain pilot licenses and should be similar to those

for motor vehicle licenses.

The Heritage Foundation study says "improving general aviation security

should be part of the national effort to make the skies safer. Much has been

done since 9/11 to establish security measures that are appropriate for the

threat. More needs to be done."


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