Following up on testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it is backing off from tougher security rules for general aviation that were first proposed in October 2008.
TSA general aviation manager Brian Delauter revealed on National Public Radio (NPR) early last month that the agency now plans to collaborate more with industry on GA security measures. He told NPR that the TSA will “substantially” increase the weight of airplanes covered by a revised security plan coming out this fall.
In early December, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate panel that the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) would undergo a makeover before it is released as a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) “before the end of 2010.”
The controversial LASP was greeted with frustration and ridicule when it was made public. Under the original version, all operators of Part 91 aircraft with an mtow of more than 12,500 pounds would be required to create a TSA-approved security program, put all flight crew through FBI criminal-history background checks, compare all passengers against the TSA’s watch lists and impose new restrictions on carriage of certain items in the cabin.
In 2008 the TSA said that as security on airlines gets better, terrorists might see private airplanes as easier targets. So the agency proposed tighter security rules for general aviation. In addition to requiring all passengers to be checked against terrorist watch lists, the rule would mandate costly new security programs for about 300 small airports.
Although the GA industry sent regulators thousands of complaints, arguing that the risk from terrorism is small, the DHS fears a nuclear device being brought into the U.S. via GA, small boats and over-land smuggling. But Napolitano told lawmakers that the SNPRM will incorporate the input from GA stakeholders that she claimed DHS had sought throughout the rulemaking process. “We’re going to be 10 times more successful in partnership than…being combative back and forth to each other,” Delauter told NPR.
TSA officials said the revised plan will “significantly reduce” the number of U.S.-registered GA aircraft subjected to tougher rules. And instead of requiring that all passengers on private aircraft be vetted against terrorist watch lists, in many cases it could be left to the pilot’s discretion.
But Delauter said there is still a risk, even if there is no specific threat. This month, the TSA will convene a new general aviation advisory panel with industry representatives aimed at managing that risk.
UK Security Proposal
Meanwhile, business aviation interests are keeping watch on a proposal from the UK’s Department for Transport that would establish new, binding and mandatory aviation security standards for all airports not used exclusively by the military.
Although unrelated to the Christmas attempt to bomb an airliner in the U.S., the standards would apply mandates to airports serving aircraft with an mtow
of between 33,000 pounds and 99,000 pounds for the carriage of employees and other passengers or goods as an aid to the conduct of company business.
Unless airports develop alternate measures, business aircraft would be subject to full airline-like security measures. Unlike the U.S. approach to security, which places security requirements on the aircraft operator, the UK approach appears to burden airports with security measures.
The proposal seeks comments by March 3, and NBAA is working with the British Business and General Aviation Association and the European Business Aviation Association to respond to the proposal. ͮ