‘12-5 Rule’ Security Program Comments Due

 - April 23, 2008, 6:26 AM

Air taxi operators are caught in a conundrum. Comments are due August 19 on the Transportation Security Administration’s draft standard security program (TFSSP) for air-taxi aircraft with a mtow of 12,500 lb or more (not more than 12,500 lb, as defined by FAR Part 25). However, obtaining a copy of the proposed TFSSP is not easy or quick. It’s available for review and comment only to those having an “operational need to know” and a non-disclosure agreement is required.

All Part 121 and 135 aircraft operators subject to the rule must request a copy of the proposed TFSSP by leaving a call-back message with voice-mail on the TSA’s 12,500 Operators Hotline at (202) 493-4006. A TSA official told AIN last month that air taxi operators calling in will be confirmed against a list of currently certified Part 135 operators. For operators not on the FAA list, the TSA will call their principal operations inspector (POI) for verification. That verification may take “a few days.”

TSA logs each call and begins cross-checking caller information with previously collected air carrier data, such as that from Form 298. TSA contacts the principal agent for the operator, who is asked to designate the people to receive the TFSSP. TSA then contacts the designees directly and faxes them, among other documents, a non-disclosure agreement to be signed and returned to TSA. Only when TSA receives an original signed agreement does the agency send the TFSSP.

Operators should leave as much information as possible on the hotline about their companies, but multiple calls will delay the process. If the voice-mail is full when calling the hotline, pressing zero will connect the caller to a person who will take the call-back information. Operators should also provide the names and phone numbers of their POIs.

The TSA said it will “consider all comments it receives” and plans to issue a final rule, effective no sooner than September 19. Early last month, TSA suspended the rule’s June 24 compliance date because it hadn’t developed the TFSSP in time. The 12-5 rule, which would require operators to conduct flight crew criminal history checks and fingerprinting security checks, applies to all transport-category operators with Part 135 certificates, including those that use air carrier airport “sterile areas” (the airline ramp or terminal and its gates) for loading or unloading passengers.

Don’t Confuse with ‘95,000’ Rule

Operators are cautioned not to get the 12-5 rule confused with another new rule from the TSA that will effect the Bombardier Global Express, Airbus Corporate Jetliner, Boeing Business Jet and all other airplanes with mtows of 95,000 lb or more and used in Part 135 operations. Effective August 19, operators of these aircraft must do pre-boarding screening of passengers and property. Although comments were able to be submitted until July 19, the TSA rules were adopted with no advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

The rule specifically mentions “private charter” operations and Part 121 and not “air taxi” operations, but TSA officials indicate that the rule is intended to apply to Part 135 on-demand air-taxi aircraft in this weight category as well. Specifically, each operator subject to this rule will need to “establish a program that provides for screening individuals and accessible property; training all employees with security-related duties; training all security coordinators and crewmembers; acknowledging receipt of, and distribution of, security directives and information circulars; and preparing, maintaining and accommodating modifications to a security program.”