TSA names three new DCA gateway airports

 - September 15, 2006, 5:57 AM

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has added three more airports to the list of “gateway” airports that qualified general aviation operators can use to get a pre-clearance to fly into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).
To receive final clearance for a flight into DCA, operators must make their last departure before DCA from an FBO that holds a TSA security authorization at a gateway airport.

Early last month, the TSA added Dallas/Love Field, Memphis International and Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International as gateway airports, bringing the total to 15.

Currently, the TSA allows corporate aircraft and Part 135 charter flights in accordance with the DCA Access Standard Security Program (DASSP) to fly into Reagan National. The access program was developed last July in coordination with the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and Defense as well as other federal agencies.

The first post-9/11 flight under the new program took place on October 18 when a chartered Hawker 1000 landed at Reagan National after a short hop from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Although the TSA guidelines permit up to 48 flights a day, only about 35 general aviation aircraft have flown into DCA since that first flight, and only about 50 companies have received permits to use the airport since then.

More Work To Be Done
While NBAA welcomed the added DCA entry points for general aviation aircraft, it noted that the overall procedure required for the aircraft to access the airport remains prohibitive–and even unworkable–for most business aircraft operators. In 2000, Reagan National handled 44,592 general aviation flights, an average of 122 a day.

“The TSA’s decision to expand the number of gateway airports for general aviation flights into DCA represents another positive step in restoring full access to the airport for our industry,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “Safety and security are the top priorities for general aviation, and we remain committed to working with TSA officials to find appropriate, workable measures that provide both security and access to the airport.”

Aircraft operators who want to use DCA must adopt a DASSP, which includes a fingerprint-based criminal history records check. After they have complied with the requirements, operators are eligible to apply to the FAA for a reservation–and then to the TSA for authorization–to operate specific flights into and out of DCA.

To receive authorization for a flight, aircraft operators must first submit to TSA-conducted name-based threat assessments of their flight crewmembers and passengers. They also must carry a TSA-approved armed security officer and must make their last departure before DCA from a gateway airport.

“NBAA will continue working with federal security officials to add to the number of gateway airports for DCA and to develop more manageable requirements for approving general aviation flights into the airport,” Bolen said. “But NBAA views [the] announcement from the TSA as another milestone on the path toward restoring full access to the Washington region for general aviation aircraft operators.”

The original gateway airports were Seattle-Tacoma; Boston Logan; Houston Hobby; Westchester County and La Guardia in New York; Chicago Midway; Minneapolis/St. Paul; West Palm Beach, Fla.; San Francisco; Teterboro; Philadelphia; and Lexington, Ky.