2004 – 10/29 - EAA Reacts to Aircraft Salvage Language in Defense Authorization Bill
EAA and its Warbirds of America division are responding to a measure that could end underwater salvage operations of abandoned military aircraft, removing the possibility that some vintage warbirds could be saved and restored instead of lost forever.
The provision, included in the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005, would ban any U.S. citizen from engaging in any activity “that disturbs, removes or injures any sunken military craft,” including airplanes. This would halt attempts, for instance, to pull World War II-era warbirds from waters and restore them to airworthy condition. Although there is language in the provision that allows the Department of Defense to issue permits for salvage operations on a historical or educational basis, EAA and Warbirds of America officials are concerned that such permits may be nearly impossible to obtain or issued in an arbitrary manner.
The provision is listed under Title XIV-Sunken Military Craft, Sections 1401-1408, located on pages 721-728 of the document (Large PDF download – 2.6MB).
“There are numerous cases of individuals or groups using their own time and money to save aircraft that the U.S. military had abandoned and had no intention of recovering,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government affairs and Washington Office Director. “These airplanes pose no military threat and had basically been left to rot by the Pentagon. People who want to invest the time and money to resurrect these aircraft and perhaps return them to the air should be encouraged, not banned.”
There are examples of individuals restoring such aircraft, then being ordered by the U.S. Navy to return them after having invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in restoration, with no recompense by the military.
Although Congress has officially adjourned until the new House and Senate are seated in January, there is always the possibility of a lame-duck session after the Nov. 2 election to finish some legislative business. EAA and Warbirds of America representatives will continue to work on the issue and use the groups’ many strong relationships in Washington to ensure no last-minute legislation closes this resource for historical warbird restorations.