Weight threshold upped in revised charter rule

 - January 11, 2008, 8:19 AM

The Transportation Security Administration’s revised final Private Charter Standard Security Program (PCSSP) released on New Year’s Eve removes the Global Express from inclusion in passenger and baggage screening requirements. At the same time, the revised program adds a minimum seating configuration that expands coverage to aircraft that wouldn’t have been covered solely under a weight determination.

The revised requirements increase the weight threshold of covered aircraft from 95,000 pounds mtow to aircraft with an mtow of more than 103,000 pounds, or with a passenger seating configuration of 61 or more. While the revision eliminates most typically configured larger business jets from the requirements, the rule now covers such aircraft as early-model DC-9s, which are certified to mtows of less than 95,000 pounds but can seat 70 passengers. Other aircraft now covered by the rule include the BAE ATP, 146-100A and 146-200A; Fokker F28 Mark 100, F28 Mark 4000, F28 Mark 70; Bombardier Dash 8-401; and Avro RJ85A.

Private Charter Concerns
One of the hardest-hit targets of this rule will be organizations that regularly make use of private charters, such as professional and collegiate sports teams, which often must travel to and from remote locations at odd hours.

Why did the TSA decide on this minimum weight and seat configuration? Because the International Civil Aviation Organization standard to determine when hardened cockpit doors should be required starts with aircraft in this class.

To further ensure that there is no confusion as to which operations are covered, the TSA provided these definitions: “There are two types of private charter. First, private charters include any flight in which the charterer engages the total passenger capacity of the aircraft for carrying passengers, the passengers are invited by the charterer, the cost of the flight is borne entirely by the charterer and the flight is not advertised to the public in any way to solicit passengers. Second, private charters include any flight for which the total passenger capacity of the aircraft is used for the purpose of civilian or military air movement, conducted under contract with the U.S. government or a foreign government.”

As for the requirements themselves, they are already in place if a private charter operator covered by this rule uses an airport’s “sterile areas.” Sterile areas are typically those areas used by the airlines and over which the TSA now has security control. The PCSSP is intended to cover charter operators using non-sterile areas–in other words, FBOs. However, there are only two FBOs in the country that have screening facilities available for charter operations similar to those of airline sterile areas, according to the TSA.

Therefore, the security administration will permit non-government screeners, such as FBO employees, but they must complete the TSA-approved screener training program. The security agency has developed the training in modular format, and non-TSA screeners must receive training on the type of equipment and procedures they will be responsible for using. For instance, if the screening location is not equipped with a walk-through metal detector, the screeners at this location are not required to complete the training module that addresses such devices.

TSA will allow some flexibility in determining who may act as screeners for private charter operations that do not use established screening checkpoints. The agency said it “will consider such factors as the degree of independence the screener has in relation to the passengers. A system in which individuals screen their supervisors, close associates or friends would not be advisable.”

Airport Screeners
Many of the more than 100 comments the security agency received after the initial rule was published in June suggested that FBO employees are good candidates for screeners. Also, commenters suggested that other airport personnel, including local law-enforcement personnel, may be appropriate candidates to conduct screening.

What about the timing? The security agency said it is “aware of the fact that all affected entities must be able to complete the TSA-authorized training for screeners shortly after the final security program is released. The new compliance dates established in this rule amendment should accommodate the time needed to adequately train screening personnel.” The private charter security program will provide details concerning training for screeners in private charter operations.

All private charter operators that were covered under the final rule published last June and continue to be covered under the revised final rule must comply with the program’s requirements by February 1. The compliance date is March 1 for operators that were not covered by the rule published in June but are now covered under the revised rule (those with aircraft with a mtow of less than 95,000 pounds but with a passenger seating configuration of 61 or more).