TSA not enforcing ticket revocation rule

 - April 2, 2007, 10:35 AM

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has quietly suspended enforcement of the rule that allowed the agency to revoke a pilot’s certificate for alleged security risks.

Pam Hamilton, TSA director of aviation, said the action follows President Bush’s signing into law the Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, which established new appeals procedures for U.S. citizens whose certificates have been revoked for security reasons.

“Although new implementing regulations have not been promulgated, the existing regulation governing certificate-suspension and revocation procedures for citizens is no longer effective,” she said in a directive.

Under the original provision issued by the TSA in January last year, the agency could instruct the FAA to revoke a pilot’s certificate based on a TSA assessment that the pilot posed a national security threat. But the pilot’s only avenue of appeal was to the TSA. And because the threat assessment might have been based on intelligence information, the pilot would be denied access to the evidence needed to prepare a defense against the allegations.

General aviation interests opposed the rule from the beginning because it allowed a pilot to appeal only to the agency that had ordered the revocation in the first place. In Vision 100, Congress ordered the TSA to come up with a new appeal process. Although the new provision does not do away with the revocation rule, it does ensure that pilots will have access to due process once the new procedures are in place.

Vision 100 commands the FAA to amend, modify, suspend or revoke immediately any airman’s certificate if the FAA “is notified by the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security of the Department of Homeland Security that the holder of the certificate poses, or is suspected of posing, a risk of air piracy or terrorism or a threat to airline or passenger safety,” and if the under secretary requests that the order be effective immediately.

Hamilton pointed out that the new provision on administrative and judicial appellate procedures for citizens does not specify what routes of appeal are available to resident aliens. Nevertheless, the FAA and TSA will develop new procedures that govern such non-citizens.

The new procedures will contain an agency review process followed by judicial review based on the entire record, she said. In the meantime, the TSA will not enforce the suspension against resident aliens.