Ohio Pilots Question Newly Mandated Anti-Terror Pledge

Boris Natasich rolls his eyes at the state's new requirement for registering airplanes.

The flight instructor at Lost Nation Airport in Willoughby is among the many pilots and airplane owners upset that the state now makes pilots trying to register planes sign a form swearing they are not affiliated with or helping a terrorist group.

"What sense does it make?" Natasich asked. "What is it really going to do? Is a terrorist really going to care about this?"

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, with 410,000 members nationwide and 13,000 in Ohio, has complained about the rule to state officials after hearing complaints from members.

"Aircraft owners are being singled out," said pilots association spokeswoman Kathleen Vasconcelos, noting that trucks and boats do not have the requirement. "It's suggesting that aircraft owners are somehow more suspect."

But state officials say the requirement makes sense because flight schools and airplanes were at the center of the 9/11 attacks and there has been public concern over crop dusters or other small planes spreading poisonous material over cities.

Fred Stratmann, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said security experts almost unanimously had concerns about planes.

A 2005 state law sponsored by State Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Butler Township Republican, required many businesses or individuals to sign so-called "Declarations of Material Assistance/Nonassistance" in order to do business with the state or to obtain state licenses and registrations.

The law specifically excluded vehicle registrations, but it did not address aircraft. Lawmakers gave discretion to the Department of Public Safety to decide which licenses to include, and airplanes were added.

All planes are registered in January in Ohio - not in the owner's birthday month as with cars - so plane owners must now fill out forms for the first time.

Jacobson could not be reached for comment but said through an aide that he supports the decision to include airplanes and will not second-guess it.

Stratmann stressed that the rule is not meant to single out planes.

"This list is by no means final," he said, saying changes will be considered over time. "It's conceivable that it could include trucks and watercraft."

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