When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) first announced its Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) in October 2008, it threatened to ground every general aviation aircraft with a maximum certified takeoff weight of more than 12,500 pounds unless the nearly 10,000 aircraft operators complied with the security edict.
The original plan would have applied commercial air carrier security measures to GA aircraft regardless of the type of operation. GA associations argued that the proposal was burdensome and costly, calling as it did for crewmember criminal record checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, biennial third-party audits of each aircraft operator and new airport security requirements.
It was greeted with unanimous scorn by the GA community, which let the federal government know in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable as initially presented. Eventually, after receiving more than 8,000 overwhelmingly negative public comments, the original LASP was scrapped and TSA went back to the drawing board in June 2009.
According to Douglas Hofsass, deputy assistant administrator for the TSA’s transportation sector network management, the TSA met with select members of the industry to discuss where the rule should really go.
Following discussions with several working groups, the TSA created a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking that has been approved by TSA administrator John Pistole and the Department of Homeland Security. It is now under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget before being reposted for public comments later this year.
Hofsass said the new version will focus on securing the aircraft, knowing who the passengers are, vetting the pilots and allowing an appropriate weight that allows the operators the flexibility to run their businesses and gives the TSA some security assurances, particularly based on what weight of aircraft poses a threat. He said the weight threshold is going up, and he described it as “appropriate.”
In a recent interview, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen alluded to the association’s old TSA Access Certificate (TSAAC) that was created several years after 9/11. Although the TSA bought into the concept, it was instituted only at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y. And while it was originally conceived as a GA security program that would allow entry into restricted airspace or access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the TSAAC never got beyond providing a corporate waiver for international flights to and from the U.S.
“A trusted pilot or a trusted operation was kind of at the heart of the TSAAC proposal,” Bolen recalled, “and I think it will be part of the Large Aircraft Security Program. It doesn’t make sense that two pilots could fly a 300,000-pound airplane on the river approach to Reagan National, carrying guns, 200 people in back that they don’t know, land at Reagan National, and those same two pilots would not be trusted to then fly out in a Cessna 172.”