TSA: ‘A lot more sense’ in new Lasp

 - November 3, 2011, 1:25 PM

A high-level Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official told a group of NBAA operators last month that a revised Large Aircraft Security Program (Lasp) will have a new name when it is re-released for comment, ideally by the end of the year.

Speaking at the association’s annual convention in Las Vegas, Doug Hofsass, deputy assistant administrator for transportation sector network management, said that a recent realignment of divisions within the TSA will bring the agency closer to Administrator John Pistole’s focus on risk mitigation rather than risk elimination.

Noting that business aircraft operators–including NBAA’s Security Council–helped in re-crafting the program, he said, “This rule is going to make a lot more sense and it’s really good security.”

When the TSA first announced its Lasp in October 2008, it was greeted with unanimous derision from the GA community. It threatened to ground every GA aircraft with a maximum certified takeoff weight of more than 12,500 pounds unless the operators bought into a security plan modeled on airline security measures.

Making DCA More Accessible

Also at the session in Las Vegas was Kerwin Wilson, the TSA’s acting general manager for general aviation. With responsibility for both policy and industry engagement, Hofsass and Wilson are two officials with “real insight into the interactions we have with the TSA on a daily basis and the real-time operational mission profile we have,” said NBAA’s Doug Carr, v-p for safety, security and regulation.

Wilson discussed the TSA’s efforts to expand the access program for Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), the DCA Access Standard Security Program (Dassp). “When we took over the program in February, there were approximately 97 approved operators and 45 FBOs,” he said. FBOs are responsible for security screening before an approved flight departs for DCA. “It’s now October and we’ve increased that to 133 operators and 89 FBOs at 64 gateways [departure airports],” Wilson disclosed.

By listening to operators who use DCA, Wilson’s office was able to make key changes that have further improved the Dassp. These include allowing operators–within two hours of departure for DCA–to change the tail number or flight crew manifest they had submitted 24 hours in advance of the flight. This gives operators more flexibility with their screening time if passengers are running late.

Because of the TSA’s efforts working alongside industry, “we’ve seen an increase of general aviation operations at DCA of 50 to 60 percent,” said NBAA Security Council chairman Greg Kulis.

Carr kicked off the session by asking if the TSA is working to lessen the impact on GA operators of temporary flight restrictions (TFR) due to the President’s travel schedule. Wilson responded that in light of the anticipated travel for the 2012 presidential election, the TSA began putting together a “POTUS TFR Mitigation Plan.” The plan calls for the agency, the Secret Service, the FAA and the Defense Department to standardize the procedures for presidential TFRs.

The goal, said Hofsass, is to set up an access gateway whenever a TFR will be in place for more than 12 hours. Hofsass and Wilson also addressed questions from participants about screening for private charter flights, airport credentialing and cargo screening.