House and Senate bills to require all airport employees with access to secure and sterile areas of an airport to undergo metal detection screening in the same manner as airline passengers is drawing criticism from the National Air Transportation Association (NATA).
The March arrest of two Comair employees and three accomplices for smuggling drugs and guns onto a Delta Air Lines flight from Orlando to San Juan, Puerto Rico understandably raised a lot of questions from the traveling public and, as expected, drew a strong reaction from the Transportation Security Administration.
A 757 crew did not get the response they expected when they declared an “emergency” instead of “mayday.” According to an incident filed with NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System, the crew found that the word “emergency” didn’t get the desired results outside U.S. airspace. The crew diverted to an airport in South America and declared an emergency, but the non-English-speaking controllers didn’t recognize what that meant.
Angel Flight Northeast, one of six regional divisions of the national volunteer-pilot program, recently signed an agreement with the Homeland Security Department to join Mercy Medical Airlift (MMA) as a participant in the Homeland Security Emergency Air Transportation System (HSEATS). The MMA developed and administers the volunteer-pilot HSEATS program, which grew out of the outpouring of volunteer-pilot offerings immediately after 9/11.
Although the FAA warned business jet operators that there was no way it could extend a January 1 deadline for installation of emergency locator transmitters (ELTs), the agency apparently did not make an effort to enforce the rule after hundreds failed to comply on time.
Helicopter Association International’s first-responder database has more than 250 helicopters registered since it became operational last July. HAI formed the database in response to communications gaps that came to light after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The database is designed to allow government agencies to quickly identify and request specific helicopters in the hours and days following a national emergency.
406-MHz emergency locator transmitters must not be activated for testing during the first five minutes after any hour, unlike 121.5-MHz ELTs (see AIM revised paragraph 6-2-5). Since 406-MHz ELTs use a network of satellites, switching them on for even a brief test alerts search-and-rescue officials almost instantly.
General aviation interests are encouraged by the appointment of Michal Morgan as Transportation Security Administration (TSA) general manager for general aviation. She previously served as the manager of general aviation for the Office of Operations Policy and the director of special operations for the TSA.
Investigation continues into an explosive device found on April 7 in a men’s lavatory outside a secure area in the atrium at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. According to Air Security International, a bomb squad detonated the device. The FBI described the device as “similar to a military trip flare containing a highly flammable substance” capable of causing “very serious injury to anyone handling or tampering with it.”
The U.S. Senate has passed a legislation package addressing many of the 9/11 Commission’s aviation security recommendations that have not yet found their way into law. Notably, the proposed rules would give the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) one year to develop a threat assessment program for general aviation airports, as well as conduct a study on the feasibility of providing grants to these airports for security upgrades.