Industry seeks input on TSA’s onerous airport badge rules

 - June 3, 2009, 7:30 AM

With an effective deadline of June 1 looming, five trade associations sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking her to withdraw a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) directive that mandates identification badges to gain access to certain parts of airports that serve airlines–regardless of the number and frequency of flights.

Napolitano, whose agency oversees the TSA, was told by NBAA, AOPA, the National Air Transportation Association, the Experi- mental Aircraft Association and the National Association of State Aviation Officials that Security Directive 1542-04-8F (SD-08F) could adversely affect general aviation operators and limit GA pilots’ access to aircraft and certain airports. They suggested that the TSA should withdraw the directive so it can consult affected parties and find “a sensible alternative.”

SD-08F expands the airport identification process to include private aircraft owners, GA maintenance providers, FBO employees, flight instructors, flight school students and other airport tenants needing unescorted access to the airport operations area (AOA).

The SD was developed in secrecy by the TSA and released only to the managers of the airports involved. It leaves imple- mentation methods to each airport, resulting in a lack of standardization of airport-security policies and protocols.

GA groups expressed concern that the TSA has chosen an SD to promulgate regulations affecting a broad category of previously unregulated individuals. Those people, including deliverymen, will need to undergo a “security threat assessment,” which includes fingerprinting and a criminal history background check.

Due to the large number–and varied interests–of general aviation pilots, service providers and aircraft owners who will be affected by this SD, the five associations believe it is imperative that the TSA approach the issue of securing the AOA of commercial airports by issuing an NPRM.

General aviation associations have been working with the TSA since the security directive was first released to airport managers in December last year and have urged the agency to work with those in the GA industry to develop a plan that is less burdensome and restrictive for pilots. But thus far, the TSA has agreed only to push the start date back to June 1 from an earlier deadline.