TSA to release airport security info circular

 - January 29, 2007, 6:42 AM

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now expected to issue an informational circular early this spring on security recommendations for general aviation landing facilities. Pam Hamilton, TSA director of aviation initiatives, said the agency hopes to issue the informational circular by March or April, although it could conceivably come sooner.

Originally, TSA officials said they expected to take action through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published by the end of last year, although the General Aviation Airport Security Working Group, which studied GA airport security, was hoping it would come in the form of an advisory circular (AC) or an advisory pamphlet.

The working group, part of the TSA’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), proposed a series of recommendations in mid-November but failed to reach a consensus on a TSA-requested plan to categorize GA airports as a way of prescribing which, if any, of their recommendations should be implemented at which airports.

“As a result, the working group went to great lengths to make these recommendations relevant to each airport or landing area, whether it is adjacent to a major metropolitan area or situated on a remote riverside sand bar,” the group told the TSA. Each and every general aviation airport and landing facility operator throughout the U.S. may use them to evaluate that facility’s physical security, procedures, infrastructure and resources, it said.

For airports and other landing facilities, the group said operators should consider reasonable vehicle access control to facilities and ramps, which may include signage, fencing, gates or positive-control techniques. This may include restricting access to the airside to as few locations as possible, balancing the need for authorized access with access control.

Where there is access control, there should be periodic review of access authorization–including codes, cards and locks–to vehicular and pedestrian gates leading to the airside.

Other recommendations included:
• Consider installing effective outdoor lighting to help improve the security of aircraft parking and hangar areas, fuel storage areas, airport access points and other appropriate areas. Proximity sensors should be considered.
• Secure hangar/personnel doors when unattended.
• Post appropriate signage. Wording may include–but is not limited to–warnings against trespassing, unauthorized use of aircraft and tampering with aircraft, as well as reporting of suspicious activity. Signage should include telephone numbers of the nearest responding law-enforcement agency, 911 or the TSA’s Airport Watch line– (866) GA-SECURE–whichever is appropriate.

The working group recommended that an airport-watch program be established, but noted that its recommendations are not all inclusive. Additional measures that are specific to an individual airport should be added as appropriate, it said.

The group said the AOPA Airport Watch Program should be used, along with a similar watch program to include the following items, if appropriate:
• Coordinate locally with airport officials, pilots, businesses and/or other airport users.
• Hold periodic meetings with the airport community.
• Develop and circulate reporting procedures to all who have a regular presence at the airport.
• Encourage proactive participation in aircraft and facility security and heightened awareness measures. This should encourage airport and line staff to “query” unknowns on ramps, near aircraft and so on.
• Post signs promoting the program, warning that the airport is watched. Include appropriate emergency telephone numbers on the sign.
• Provide training to all involved for recognizing suspicious activity and appropriate response tactics. This could include the use of video or other media for training, with recommended training topics such as transient aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications; people loitering for extended periods in the vicinity of parked aircraft, in pilot lounges or other inappropriate areas; pilots who appear to be under the control of another person; people wanting to rent aircraft without presenting proper credentials or identification; people who present apparently valid credentials but who do not display a corresponding level of aviation knowledge; any pilot who makes threats or statements inconsistent with normal uses of aircraft; and events or circumstances that do not fit the pattern of lawful, normal activity at an airport.

The GA group also recommended using local law-enforcement officials for airport security community education and to encourage employers to make their staffs aware of the airport-watch programs.

Under law-enforcement officer support, they urged airports to develop procedures to have security patrols for ramp and aircraft hangar and parking areas, with special considerations during periods of heightened security. Airport operators should communicate with and educate local law-enforcement agencies on security procedures at the airport, including what a pilot license looks like; who is authorized to drive on the ramp; how to get airport access (who has a key); and what are “normal” operations.

Under security planning, an emergency locator map should identify gates, hydrants, emergency shelters, buildings and hazardous materials sites on a grid map. Fire and law-enforcement personnel should be provided with a copy of the map, and a procedure should be established for handling bomb threats and suspect aircraft.
A threat-communication system should be developed with a tiered, comprehensive local telephone and contact list, distributed on a need-to-know basis.

Twenty-four-hour telephone numbers should be included for the airport director, point-of-contact (POC) or airport security coordinator, local police or county sheriff's department, with a list of all responding law-enforcement agencies; county/city emergency manager; state police; fire department; state office of public security; FBI; FAA; TSA; and any other appropriate organization. Where possible, radio communication capabilities should be established with local law enforcement.

According to the recommendations, the TSA and industry shall post these best practices on their respective Web sites, along with related information about securing aircraft and airport facilities. Existing security courses available from industry should be identified.

Further, airports should communicate all new security policies and procedures when issued, as well as conduct regular meetings with airport tenants and the flying public to discuss the security issues and challenges. There also should be a qualified, single POC for disseminating security information.

The PIC should ensure that the identity of all occupants is verified, all occupants are on board at the invitation of the owner/operator and that all baggage and cargo is known to the occupants. Pilots must be able to provide government-issued photo identification.

For student pilots, aircraft ignition keys should be controlled so that the student cannot start the aircraft until the instructor is ready for the flight to begin. Further, flight schools, FBOs and others providing aircraft to students should:
• Limit student pilot access to aircraft keys until the student pilot has reached an appropriate point in the training curriculum.
• Consider having any student pilot check in with a specific employee before being allowed access to parked aircraft.
• Have the student sign or initial a form and not receive keys until an instructor or other “management official” also signs or initials.
• When available, use a different ignition key from the door lock key. The instructor would provide the ignition key after arriving at the aircraft.
The identity of an individual renting an aircraft should be verified by checking a government-issued photo ID, as well as the airman certificate and current medical certificate (if necessary for that operation). In addition to any aircraft-specific operational and training requirements, a first-time rental customer should be familiarized with local airport operations, including security procedures used at the facility. Operators renting aircraft should be aware of suspicious activities and report to appropriate officials any individuals who inquire about aircraft rental without possessing the necessary knowledge or certifications to operate such aircraft.
For transient pilots, there should be sign-in/sign-out procedures identifying their parked aircraft. All pilots should make it as difficult as possible for an unauthorized person to gain access to their airplane. Locking hangar doors and aircraft doors to prevent unauthorized access or tampering with the aircraft is important, the working group said.