Security rules tighter for some European operations

 - December 11, 2006, 4:33 AM

Business aviation, long a bastion from the sometimes unfathomable airline security rules, is now facing similar regulations in some European Union countries.

Certain airports in the EU, particularly in Denmark and Germany, are requiring aircrews to be present at the security checkpoints while passengers undergo screening, so the crews can declare that they have no objection to the items passengers are carrying on board the aircraft, even in hold baggage. The two nations also are banning from business aviation flights the same carry-on items the airlines have banned.

After the aborted plot to bomb airliners bound from the UK to the U.S. in August, drinks and most other liquids and gels were banned from carry-on items, and British authorities banned all carry-on bags. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) initially requested that business aircraft operators exercise an increased level of awareness concerning suspicious activity, particularly involving the use of liquids or gels in a suspicious manner on board or in the vicinity of aircraft.

The alleged airline bomb plot was revealed on August 10, and in the ensuing weeks the restrictions were gradually fine-tuned and relaxed. By late September the TSA lifted its ban on liquids, gels and aerosols and announced that passengers could carry through security checkpoints toiletries of three ounces or less that fit comfortably in a one quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag. Travelers could also bring on board items purchased in secure areas of the airport.

As of November 6, under EU rules, passengers can take on board up to 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) of liquids in individual containers that will fit into a one-liter, transparent, resealable plastic bag. The rules apply at all EU airports, but also in Albania, Iceland, Kosovo, Norway and Switzerland.

NBAA, the European Business Aviation Association and the International Business Aviation Council said they are working to develop “appropriate” security measures for business aviation.

In another security issue, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has filed comments on a plan to reimburse five metropolitan Washington, D.C.  airports for losses they incurred while the airports were closed following 9/11. The airports are Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, College Park Airport, Potomac Airfield, Washington Executive/Hyde Field and Washington South Capitol Street Heliport.

On Nov. 30, 2005, President Bush signed a law in which a total of up to $17 million would be appropriated to fixed-base general aviation operators and providers of GA ground-support services.

NATA expressed extreme disappointment at the length of time it has taken the DOT to publish the notice of proposed rulemaking, 11 months after the bill was signed. “NATA strongly recommends that the department ensure that this promulgation of a final rule and initiation of the application process are a high priority to ensure timely distribution of funds,” it said. “The remainder of the rulemaking process, including the application process, must also be clear and concise so operators can apply [for] and receive funding as soon as possible.”

NATA also asked the DOT to be flexible and provide as much assistance as possible to small businesses. NATA is concerned that some businesses will be intimidated by the process, and it asked DOT to encourage those businesses that might be eligible for reimbursement to apply.