EU will stay the course on security regulations

 - September 28, 2006, 10:01 AM

Despite the dramatic August 10 revelation of a terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic airliners departing from the UK, European Union (EU) transport officials have not accelerated their plans to rework the existing EC2320 aviation security regulations. The draft rules are next due to be discussed at a meeting of EU countries’ transport ministers on October 9.

A spokesman for the UK’s Department for Transport–which has been a firm advocate of strong and comprehensive security controls–told AIN that the redrafting of EC2320 will remain on “the same timetable.” The final legislation is not expected to be adopted before the very end of this year, or more likely early next year.

The EC2320 rules were hastily introduced five years ago in the aftermath of 9/11 in a bid to keep weapons out of aircraft and secure areas of airports. But they did not take effect until Jan. 19, 2003, and since then have not been enforced uniformly by the various European states.

In September last year, the European Commission (EC) said that the rules would need to be redrafted as formal “framework legislation.” The business aviation community has been concerned that authorities might extend the impact of regulations to aircraft weighing as little as 2.7 metric tons (5,952 pounds).

As framework legislation, the revised EC2320 would outline only broad security requirements, such as the need for positive identification of passengers and preventing any potential weapons from being taken aboard aircraft. These will be issued in conjunction with detailed EC622 rules specifying exactly how these general requirements should be met, but these will be shared only with operators on a confidential basis.

The main concern of the business aviation lobby has been to ensure that the detailed EC622 rules take account of how markedly corporate aircraft operations differ from those of the airlines. For example, it has argued that there is no point requiring passengers to put items such as nail clippers in checked baggage if the baggage hold can be accessed from the cabin.

Whatever the final details of the EC622 rules, the new EC2320 will represent an important change in that for the first time the requirements for security screening are expected to apply to all business aircraft weighing between 10 and 45 metric tons (22,044 to 99,208 pounds).

The new rules will therefore apply to aircraft ranging in size from the Learjet 60XR to the Global Express XRS (but not including a model such as the Bombardier Learjet 45XR).

The purpose of EC2320 is to ensure that all operators concerned have a security policy that they commit to implementing. Under detailed EC622 requirements, these might be spelled out in a contract between business aircraft operators and their passengers. EBAA wants EC622 to allow for so-called “alternative measures” to fit the scale, circumstances and location of an operator.

Meanwhile, British transport officials met with their European counterparts during late August and September to explain the extraordinary restrictions that authorities imposed on flights out of the UK beginning August 10. These required passengers to carry only travel documents and essential medications on board in transparent plastic bags.

The restriction was subsequently lifted to allow small carry-on bags, including laptops and cellphones. At press time, these limits were expected to be further relaxed–essentially to  pre-August 11 allowances.

EU officials have said that they want to achieve more consistent rules about permitted carry-on luggage and passenger screening. They are also seeking to accelerate plans to exchange passenger data among member states. UK officials have said that the alleged terrorist plot to use liquid explosives to destroy airliners in flight means that there must be a “step change” in aviation security measures.