TSA bizav security plans being put to the test at TEB

 - January 15, 2008, 6:14 AM

While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and NBAA continue to work on a security protocol demonstration at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport–which could become a nationwide blueprint for airport and airspace access–the agency is taking further steps to implement the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP).

In a meeting with the NBAA Security Council last month, retired Coast Guard Vice Adm. John Shkor, who is the TSA’s new COO, said that progress was being made to finalize a security protocol for corporate operators wishing to obtain “qualified” access to airports and airspace during periods of heightened security.

The joint TSA/NBAA “proof of concept” project, which is being coordinated though the Teterboro Users’ Group, will be implemented on a voluntary basis for Part 91 operators late this month. Beginning with international waivers for qualified operators, the security protocol is expected to become the basis for further TSA waiver approval and other types of operation, including TFR access.

The TFSSP was scheduled to go into effect on February 1, although it appeared problematic that the approximately 800 affected operators would be able to comply with fingerprinting of their flight crews and other requirements by that deadline.

Despite that, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) warned its members that commercial operators of aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or more may find themselves in noncompliance with the regulation if they have not properly executed the associated nondisclosure form, obtained the TFSSP and implemented the rule’s requirements.

Implementing the security measures in the Twelve-Five regulation and its associated security program is required for all commercial operators (passenger and/or cargo) of aircraft having a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or more.

NATA advised that any business holding an FAA-issued commercial operating certificate (such as a Part 135 operator) listing an aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or more must obtain and implement the TFSSP regardless of the number of commercial flights actually conducted using the covered aircraft. As an example, a corporate flight department holding a Part 135 certificate, but which does not offer charter services to the general public and conducts almost all of its operations under Part 91, must still implement the security program.

The TSA also issued a final Private Charter Security Rule that raised the regulated weight to 100,309 pounds (45,500 kilograms) and added a passenger seating configuration of 61 or more. When the TSA first issued the emergency final rule in June, it required that private charter operators screen passengers and their carry-on baggage before boarding aircraft with an mtow of 95,000 pounds or more. That included the Bombardier Global Express, while excluding its main competitor, the Gulfstream V. Surprisingly, it also excluded some DC-9s.

The new weight and passenger thresholds were adopted to conform to an international security standard in response to comments received from operators and the industry. “The decision by the TSA to revise the aircraft weight limit in its Private Charter Security Rule to match the international security standard is a very positive development,” said General Aviation Manufacturers Association president Ed Bolen. “By combining weight and passenger seating capacity as the threshold for this rule, the TSA has eliminated confusion in the marketplace, promoted the concept of international aviation standards and demonstrated that it intends to exercise its board rulemaking authority prudently.”

DCA and the ‘DC3’
Although the TSA has become much more responsive under the leadership of retired Coast Guard Adm. James Loy, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) remains closed to GA because of unrelenting security concerns in the White House.

Three other close-in Washington-area airports continue to operate, albeit under heavy restrictions. Under current special flight rules governing operations at what have become known as the “DC3” airports (College Park, Potomac Airpark and Washington Executive/Hyde Field) in Maryland and within a 15-nm radius of the Washington Monument, only GA pilots who were based at those airports before 9/11 and have undergone extensive background checks may operate there.

AOPA filed a petition in October asking that transient traffic be allowed to use the three airports and that vetted pilots be permitted to conduct air traffic pattern work at all three. Early last month the FAA Office of Rulemaking formally registered the petition on its docket.

The association’s petition notes that although SFAR 94 contained language suggesting that additional operations may be permitted after a procedural validation period, no effort has been made to open the DC3 to transient flight operations since the SFAR was finalized in February of last year.

Meanwhile, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) published a set of security recommendations for GA, written by a NASAO committee composed of the state government aviation directors in nine geographically diverse states.

The recommended security measures include securing unattended aircraft, the development of security plans for each airport, monitoring airport property and users and prohibiting unauthorized access to the airport. The report urges the federal government to establish standards for a new pilot “smart card” to replace the current paper certificate, and calls for an additional federal funding source for general aviation security, separate from the Airport Improvement Program.

“These guidelines were not written in a vacuum,” said Henry Ogrodzinski, NASAO’s president and CEO. “The committee reviewed a great deal of existing data. Most states have already issued general aviation security plans.”

Robert Mallard, the committee’s chairman and the executive director of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, said, “These are common-sense guidelines that will enhance security by limiting the opportunities of terrorists to steal or take command of GA aircraft.”

Ogrodzinski noted that some of the recommendations are also similar to positions taken by other advocates of GA because NASAO agrees with their views. “All of the associations representing the airports, airport businesses and airport operators have already made many positive contributions to increasing security,” he added. “NASAO looks forward to continuing to work with all of these groups as well as the [TSA] and the new Department of Homeland Security to establish greater security for all Americans.”