TSA large-aircraft proposal raises hackles in the industry

 - October 31, 2008, 11:08 AM

Since the Transportation Security Administration released its plans for a Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), business aviation providers and pilots have reacted swiftly and vociferously. Reaction to the proposed regulation runs the gamut from strident opposition to resigned acceptance for what operators view as unwarranted governmental meddling in the functioning of the industry.

“This notice of proposed rulemaking is largely a statement that the TSA as a whole does not understand general aviation, and has not spent any time exploring the various segments of general aviation,” said New Hampshire-based aviation consultant Bill Quinn. “Maybe this will be useful, in a sense that maybe it will call for a little bit more of a mandate on the part of the FAA to recognize the fact that there is a difference between people flying single-engine Cessnas and Pipers and people flying large turbine-powered aircraft under Part 91 because we are still all lumped under Part 91 and that’s the way the TSA is looking at it,” he added.

Scrutiny of business aviation community responses from various industry sources, including those sent directly to AIN, reveals a widespread belief that the TSA is unfairly targeting business aviation, either as a means of increasing the agency’s influence (one observer translated LASP as “latest attempt to seize power”) or as an example to prove to the general public that the agency is “doing something” to address an avenue through which terror attacks might be inflicted.

Many who shared their opinions believe that the security measures currently in effect industry-wide are sufficient, and that governmental oversight is unnecessary given that the pilots fly the same passengers with great frequency, while some suggest that the industry is being singled out for scrutiny while other more ubiquitous means of transport such as private yachts, cargo containers or large trucks remain relatively untouched.

Many of the commenters criticize the repetitive clearance requirements demanded of crew and passengers, and raise questions about who is going to pay for these checks as well as the massive infrastructure that will be required to process all the information and enforce it. Many have expressed the opinion that rather than place the burden on operators, the agency should more closely regulate airports. The trampling of civil liberties is another theme throughout the comments, as some argue that the new regulations would defeat one of the very purposes of private aviation, the closest one can get to flying anonymously. Some question the timing of the announcement, made amid the distractions of financial upheaval and the elections this month.

While a few people advocate reactions bordering on civil disobedience in their opposition to the proposed security measures, others are taking the more circumspect view that in the current economic climate the private aviation industry would have few public sympathizers, and that any arguments against the restrictive measures should be handled through proper channels–aviation industry alphabet groups such as NBAA, AOPA, GAMA and NATA.