With new general aviation security measures thought to be looming on the horizon, NBAA hosted several senior-level officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) during the seventh annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva in late May.
NBAA introduced the U.S. security officials to their European counterparts and held a series of discussions with them about a range of domestic and international security issues that affect GA.
The association said it provided member feedback directly to the security officials, including DHS deputy director of transportation infrastructure Rob Rottman, who participated in an EBACE panel discussion on European Union-registered aircraft operations in the U.S.
During a walking tour of the static display at Geneva International Airport, government officials got a first-hand view of the security assets on board the aircraft.
The DHS and TSA are preparing to propose new security policies for general aviation later this summer, and NBAA said the meetings were yet another part of the association’s plan to explain to government officials the operating model and unique security needs of the business aviation community.
Security Measures Already in Place
NBAA said it will continue to work with authorities to highlight the effective security measures business aircraft operators already practice and remind regulators of the need to ensure an appropriate balance between security concerns and the mobility needs of the GA community.
The proposed new regulations are expected to be tailored to the specific needs of the general aviation community and could include background checks and passenger manifest requirements. Once the proposal is published, GA organizations and the public will be able to submit comments. A final rule is not expected until next year.
Responding to a front-page article in the Portland [Maine] Press Herald, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen wrote that general aviation has enhanced an already strong security environment at GA airports and facilities nationwide.
He enumerated GA security initiatives, which include NBAA’s Transportation Security Administration Access Certificate (TSAAC), as well as AOPA’s Airport Watch program. In addition, aircraft manufacturers have adopted procedures to report suspicious financial transactions during aircraft purchase, non-U.S. citizens are carefully screened by flight training organizations and federal airmen and aircraft registries are checked closely by law enforcement against terrorist lists.
“Security has always been a top priority for general aviation,” Bolen wrote. “As federal officials consider new GA security policies, NBAA will continue working with authorities to highlight the effective measures already in place and ensure an appropriate balance between security and mobility concerns.”
He also noted that charter aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds must comply with TSA-mandated security procedures akin to those for the airlines.
The Portland Press Herald article pointed out that new regulations are likely to generate concern in border states where GA aircraft and recreational boaters travel
between the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean islands and Mexico.
According to the article, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged likely resistance, but he argued that inconvenience was a small price to pay to prevent a terrorist from renting an airplane or boat to carry a bomb into the country. He argued that it is in the long-term interests of GA and recreational boaters to tighten security because the American public could call for harsher restrictions if an attack by a small boat or aircraft were successful.
“Everybody says, ‘We believe in security,’ but when it comes time to accept a little inconvenience or an impingement on the business model, they say, ‘Oh, we don’t want to do that,’” Chertoff said. “I will tell you one senior executive in general aviation charter actually approached me overseas and said you’d better deal with this issue because we’re concerned about it.”