TSA extends timeline for new security rules

 - May 8, 2008, 10:22 AM

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last month extended the compliance date for the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP), which will require new security measures for operators of aircraft with an mtow of 12,500 lb or more, and later announced it would also delay the Private Charter Standard Security Program (PCSSP).

The TSA pushed the start date for the TFSSP from December 1– also the deadline for implementation of PCSSP–to February 1. In postponing the beginning of the TFSSP, the security agency acknowledged that many of the affected operators are small entities that were not subject to aviation security regulations before issuance of the rule. Therefore, these operators had not conducted fingerprinting-based criminal history record checks (CHRC) on their employees, had not trained staff and flight crew on security measures or operated in accordance with a security program.

In its notice in the Federal Register on November 8, the TSA said that approximately 850 operators are subject to this new standard, and many are having a great deal of difficulty completing the CHRC and training requirements for a variety of reasons.
And while the notice does not specifically address the December 6 deadline related to CHRCs for flight crewmembers, the National Air Trans- portation Association (NATA) said that the TSA confirmed that date too has been changed to February 1.

CHRC Process Forthcoming

NATA, which signed an agreement with TSA in September to help certify independent third-party finger-printers, will continue to work with the TSA toward approving a process to collect, submit and obtain the required flight crewmember CHRCs. Although the TSA has yet to approve such a process, NATA expects to provide the necessary information to the industry as soon as it is available.

“We’re pleased that the agency is working to provide air-taxi operators with the guidance and time necessary to ensure successful implementation of the security program,” said NATA vice president Jeb Burnside. “We’re also optimistic that this additional time will allow the TSA the opportunity more fully to develop its programs for ensuring continued security of these operations.”

The PCSSP, also referred to as the 95,000-lb rule, would mandate Part 121 and 135 operators using aircraft with a maximum certified takeoff weight of 95,000 lb or more for private charters to establish a security program that includes, among other requirements, the use of metal- detection devices, X-ray systems, security coordinators, law-enforcement personnel, accessible weapons, CHRCs and training for security coordinators and crewmembers.

The TSA announced that in response to comments it received, it is making adjustments to the rule and the December 1 compliance date is no longer valid. Some of the comments have requested that the weight limit be increased to 100,000 lb or that the Bombardier Global Express be exempted from the rule. The TSA promised to provide at least 30 days notice of the contents of the final rule and security program before compliance is required.

Meanwhile, although access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) isn’t on the horizon, NBAA senior vice president of operations Bob Blouin said the TSA continues to be “very interested in all of the work we’ve done” on the proposed Transportation Security Administration Access Protocol (TSAAP), which would allow general aviation operators airline-like access to the NAS in the event of another national security incident.

NBAA Forms Security Council

NBAA has also formed a security council that was expected to meet for the first time on November 22. That council is chaired by Doug Schwartz, director of aviation for AT&T in Morristown, N.J., and Beth Haskins, president of Signature Flight Support. The first meeting was to be attended by a core group of people, with membership invitations to “key personnel.”

Blouin said the group will review all of the work that has been done with regard to the security letter of authorization (SLOA), the predecessor to TSAAP, as well as access protocols, best practices and the NBAA corporate security checklist.

With all of the recent warnings about terrorist activities, getting an aircraft off the ground in, say, Morristown, may be more important to corporate operators than landing at DCA. In the middle of last month, federal officials reiterated concerns about possible terrorist activities following release of an audio tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden and specifically referencing aviation.

An FBI warning on November 15 acknowledged that al Qaeda may still be too weakened to carry out a massive attack, and may therefore resort to numerous smaller attacks using conventional explosives rather than chemical or biological weapons. It also could use “low-technology platforms such as truck bombs, commercial or private aircraft, small watercraft or explosives easily concealed and planted by terrorist operatives,” the FBI said.

Although the threat level was not increased, the FBI warning was followed by other warnings of possible terrorist retaliation when a Pakistani national was executed in Virginia for murdering two CIA people outside the the agency’s headquarters almost a decade ago.

Al Qaeda Threat Looms

A month earlier the FAA issued a security alert to airports and airport operators that cited statements believed to be from al Qaeda leaders threatening attacks against U.S. economic interests. In none of these instances was the threat condition raised from its current “yellow” (elevated) status, but the possibilities remained clear.

Following the latest FBI warning, AOPA urged pilots to report suspicious activities to local police or local FBI offices, noting that its Airport Watch toll-free telephone number is scheduled to become operational this month. The TSA has joined with AOPA to develop a nationwide aviation watch system to report such activity.

At press time, there were indications that the current lame-duck session of Congress–which came back to Washington after the elections–would pass a homeland security bill before finally adjourning for the rest of the year. The legislation, already approved by the House of Representatives, would create a Department of Homeland Security and transfer the TSA from the Transportation Department to the new department.

While that was being debated, airline pilots, whom the bill would authorize to carry guns, began pushing to get firearms training from the FBI or private schools. Neither the TSA nor the DOT has the facilities to train the estimated 30,000 pilots who are expected to volunteer for the program.

Meanwhile, all pilots must now carry photo identification along with their pilot certificate while exercising their pilot privileges. Acceptable photo IDs include a state-issued driver license or other valid federal or state ID card, U.S. armed forces’ ID, passport, credentials that authorize access to airport secure areas or other identification the FAA deems acceptable.

AOPA is also trying to reduce the size of the temporary flight restriction area around the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland, and is fighting a last-minute attempt by Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) to ban overflights of major sporting events.

When President Bush has been at Camp David, which is north of AOPA’s home in Frederick, Md., and just south of the Pennsylvania-Maryland line, the TFR has been expanded to a 10-nm radius. AOPA said it has learned the TFR might be expanded to a 30-nm radius, similar to TFRs around the Bush home in Crawford, Texas, and the family retreat in Maine. AOPA said the existing Camp David TFR closes Frederick’s (FDK) ILS to all practice approaches and student traffic. It also affects seven other airports in Maryland and Pennsylvania; and AOPA warned pilots using Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB) in Martinsburg, W.Va.; Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) in Maryland; Gettysburg Airport (W05) in Pennsylvania and Carroll County Regional Airport (DMW) in Westminster, Md., to exercise extreme caution.

As for Breaux’s 11th-hour maneuvering, AOPA said that his legislation was “bad public policy” that would turn over the “control and regulation of airspace to private interests rather than the agencies established by Congress.” It said the effort would put commercial and college sports interests in control of the airspace.

Although aimed at banner-towing aircraft, the TFRs also close hundreds of GA airports near stadiums and race tracks each time there is an event scheduled. Presumably, they would also prohibit helicoptering participants and visitors into racing venues and other sporting events.