NBAA Convention News

NATA up front in security debate

 - June 30, 2008, 8:26 AM

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) expects to sign an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as early as this week to help TSA certify independent third-party finger-printers.

According to NATA president Jim Coyne, TSA accepted NATA’s recommendations and sent the agreement back to the association yesterday. Although NATA had not yet looked it over, Coyne foresees little difficulty in signing.

Both TSA and the aviation industry are under the gun to get approximately 10,000 pilots of aircraft weighing 12,500 lb or more fingerprinted by December 6. “This deadline is going to be incredibly difficult for our industry,” Coyne said here yesterday, adding that the timetable was set by Congress when it passed aviation security legislation.

NATA has been in discussions with TSA for several weeks. The plan envisions FBOs or NATA members themselves shouldering some of the workload by having their employees trained to fingerprint.

“We are more sensitive to the time pressures than they are,” Coyne said. “But we could yet go back to them and say it can’t be done [by December 6].”

Coyne said that many Part 135 charter pilots might not know how to get fingerprinted by government authorities, such as local police authorities or other law enforcement agencies.

Also at the convention yesterday, NATA debuted a new airport community relations video, the culmination of the association’s three-year American Aviation Access Initiative. Created specifically to address the questions and concerns of residents who live close to an airport–and community leaders–the professionally produced video is a low-key approach that tells the story of the beneficial role an airport plays in its community.

The 15-min video is available free to aviation groups, and Coyne is especially keen to have NBAA member companies take advantage of the offer because of their influence in the communities in which they operate.

“The video deals with a number of airport-related issues in a way that everyone can understand and appreciate,” said Coyne, who noted that up to 40 airports close each year. “Good understanding is the first step in gaining strong community support for airports.”

Because of the events of last September 11, he said, “every takeoff and landing has taken on a whole new meaning. This increased scrutiny means that all of the users need to be highly involved in presenting our industry in the best possible light to community leaders and the general public.”

NATA also has released a wall poster promoting 10 ways for aviation business to improve security. Produced in conjunction with NATA’s Safety 1st program and USAIG, it is titled “Top 10 Common Sense Things You Can Do To Improve Aviation Security.”

The recommendations include:  

•visually follow crew and passengers from the lobby to the aircraft and immediately report any unusual actions.

•greet anyone not known to you when seen near aircraft or on the ramp area.

•gather passengers and baggage at one location before boarding and after arriving.

Coyne also announced that air charter operators should have or will be receiving shortly their third and final installment of federal relief as a result of last September’s terrorist attacks. All air carriers, including Part 135 on-demand air-taxi operators, were eligible to apply for funds as a result of the airline bailout bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush last fall.

While the total funds distributed to on-demand air-taxi operators have not been tallied, NATA members have received millions  in financial assistance so far.