Read the open letter to TSA on their LASP proposal written by Jack Kenton, California Pilots Association’s VP, Region 4.
Economic – The proposed rule will economically discourage private aviation. Congress has already admonished the “Big 3 Autos” for their extravagance in using airplanes. The typical airplane owner does not consider an aircraft to be an extravagance. Aircraft are considered as business tools. Every company having an aviation department is scrutinizing it so as to prove the cost effectiveness of this tool. If the cost/benefit ratio isn’t there, the airplanes will disappear. A factor in the benefit curve is the utility of the airplanes. If the utility is lost, the curve will demand that the airplanes be sold. One would assume that TSA is aware of the fact that corporate aviation grew in response to the imposition of TSA rules on airlines and their passengers. Your rules have made airline travel an inconvenience for business travelers. Now, with a rule requiring the addition of security coordinators to staff, the purchasing of auditor services, and having to expose the nature and extent of their security programs, the cost/benefit ratio will tilt the numbers to aviation’s detriment. With the loss of every airplane out there, the income of airports and FBOs will suffer. That will then affect the airports.
What about airports? -A lot of them are already harassed by neighbors complaining about noise. And a good number are just looking for an excuse to close their airport. The cities operating them often do not see the benefits the airports bring to business and industry; they only see what they consider an inadequate stream of airport income. Now we add more requirements in the form of rule changes and tell them that, as they have large aircraft, they need to add a security coordinator and start record-keeping, etc. A year ago, Tahoe-Truckee Airport was talking about shortening its runways. I can’t recall their reason, but everyone knows that it was to discourage jet traffic. Using a different twist, the Santa Monica Airport has tried to stop its use by the higher performance executive jets. It seems odd to have a government agency working against our government supported aviation system.
– The LASP proposal requires all owners/operators hire a third party auditor and that auditor would then examine the owner/operator’s security program. There are other problems with this proposal.
- First, the operator has the expense of hiring an auditor. Expense is a big factor in owning and operating a large aircraft. An auditor, per the NPRM and as hired help, would expect to return periodically. That auditor will look forward to a revenue stream created by making those return audits. That means that the auditor would not want to offend anyone as the operator might then change auditors. We all know what the Wall Street auditors did when asked to audit junk mortgages. When they had no basis on which to work, they simply guessed at something. Why? – Because they would not have had the continuing clients if they could not keep the client happy.
- A second factor in the business of security is the secrecy of the security programs. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, every operator of a “large aircraft” has reviewed their security and just about every one of them has increased the level of security surrounding their airplane operations. One thing that the owner/operators do not want is for everyone to know how their security programs work. A third party audit of their security program is something that everyone fears would lead to removing the secrecy that is a part of their security programs.
Aircrew Security checks – The proposed rule would require LASP aircraft operators to begin ensuring that their flight crewmembers undergo Security Threat Analysis checks and would limit the validity of a STA to five years. Air operators have been doing background checks for years. To now add the TSA criminal and threat checks to what is already being done, and to redo these checks every five years, is simply overkill. Already we have a situation in which, under the existing rules, a person such as Ms. Martha Stewart would be ineligible to be hired in any position. Add this and the “no fly” list issues and the general aviation loses its ability to provide the utilitarian travel that it can provide today.
pConclusion – Aircraft owners/operators are very much concerned about security. Their insurance, their reputation, their livelihood is based on their being able to transport company personnel, passengers, executives, equipment, etc. in a utilitarian manner. The existing TSA regulation of air carriers has driven corporations to private aircraft because the airlines cannot quickly and reliably transport people. Implementation of the proposed LASP would hurt the aircraft industry and result in the selling of many of the private aircraft that the NPRM is targeting. Aside from the fact that the NPRM would appear to destroy our system of private aviation, it will seriously hurt our economy and will likely mean the loss of additional aircraft industry and that could include some of the airports which make U.S. private aviation as flexible and utilitarian as it is.
We would recommend that you take another look at this rule proposal and simply recall and cancel it. As a minimum, there should be further discussion with the Aviation Rule-Making Committee which has worked with the FAA on its rule-making proposals.
VP – Region 4
California Pilots Association