The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) appealed to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to consider providing general aviation pilots more say in the development of airport security procedures. While the TSA largely does not regulate general aviation airports or operations, general aviation pilots face challenges at some of the 400 commercial airports regulated by the TSA, said Nobuyo Reinsch, AOPA director of aviation security in a letter to Michael Rucinski, the TSA’s industry engagement manager for general aviation policy, plans, and engagement.
“Among these challenges, the issue with access to the air operations area and aircraft parking area can be significant and has the most impact on both general aviation-based pilots and transient operators,” Reinsch said. The TSA works with airport managers to devise an airport security plan (ASP) tailored to each individual airport. “However, it is unfortunate for transient and based pilots that AOPA and the public do not have access to the specific requirements that govern airport security, nor to finalized ASPs, because the information is considered sensitive security information (SSI),” she said. “General aviation operators do not have any opportunity to provide input on security policies for airports that could directly impact their operations.”
While SSI’s require special handling, the impacts of these security procedures on general aviation should be carefully considered, Reinsch added. “We strongly believe that there should be a formal process where the industry and operators can provide input to minimize negative impacts.”
General aviation pilots might fall under the same requirements as airport employees, but transient pilots will not have access to locally issued airport identification credentials, she said. Even so, all pilots have certificates and government-issued picture identification. Further, FAA certificate holders are vetted by the TSA, and non-U.S. citizens undergo extensive threat assessments under the Alien Flight Student Program before flight training in the U.S., she noted.
“AOPA advocates for a risk-based approach to aviation security,” Reinsch said, pointing to the AOPA Airport Watch program, along with education and other outreach efforts.
“General aviation pilots and operators should be considered an important industry partner and a key part of security solutions as security at airports are important to all operators,” she said. The letter was written in response to a TSA policy feedback survey.