By Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside
As reported on AVweb, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has proposed a rule to expand airline-style security measures to private (i.e. Part 91) operations of aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. The new proposal was formally released October 30, 2008. That date also started a 60-day period during which the TSA is accepting comments from the public on the usefulness and appropriateness of its proposal.
If finalized, just some of the provisions in the proposed rule would require operators to assign a security director to oversee flight operations, obtain TSA approval for a security program addressing every operation of the aircraft, submit fingerprints of all flight-crew members, seek government approval of each passenger for each flight, and pay for a third party to audit compliance with the new rules, with results sent to the agency. A copy of the full, 67-page proposal is available in PDF format here.
At this writing, general aviation’s alphabet soup is expressing a combination of disbelief and opposition to the proposal. Since it is so large and far-reaching, the first order of business must be to obtain additional time for members of the public—you and me—to consider and respond to the request for comments. The 60-day comment period is woefully inadequate. Already, AOPA and NBAA have signed a joint letter formally request an extension, to 120 days. As the letter stated, “with over 15,000 aircraft, 10,000 operators and 300 airports impacted,” it’s impossible to accurately determine the proposal’s impact.
Meanwhile, EAA Vice President of Industry and Regulatory Affairs Earl Lawrence correctly noted the proposal raises “serious questions in the areas of interstate commerce, government authority, civil liberties, and Constitutional rights. Rulemaking proposals that present the potential for such dramatic consequences require more than a mere 60 days for the public to study and comment on them.”
Even if you don’t operate an aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, this proposal likely will impact you. That’s because the TSA also proposes to require airports served by large aircraft to adopt security programs. This could mean any facility capable of handling a large turboprop or Cessna Citation II must formally participate in a TSA security program. Good luck getting to your hangar at Podunk Regional for a pre-dawn departure. Unless the comment period is extended, it will expire on December 29, 2008. Now’s a good time to add your voice to the growing opposition. Go to www.regulations.gov, use the docket number, TSA–2008–0021, and formally request a comment period extension of at least another 60 days. While you’re there, tell the TSA about your preliminary thoughts regarding its proposal. But be polite. You really need to do this. Right now.
This post to the AVweb Insider blog also will appear in the December 2008 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.