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EAA Examining TSA Large Aircraft Security Program Proposal

Several concerns apparent on initial review

October 9, 2008 — EAA is reviewing a new proposal released Thursday morning (October 9) by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that would require all U.S. operators of aircraft exceeding 12,500 pounds maximum take-off weight (MTOW) to implement a TSA-approved security program. This is the first time that the government has proposed mandatory security programs on aircraft used for personal transportation. The proposal would implement a host of new security measures, including fingerprinting and background checks of flight crews, vetting passengers against the government’s terrorist watch lists prior to every flight, and security requirements for airports serving “large” aircraft.

The Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) TSA says, would “strengthen general aviation security by reducing “the susceptibility of large aircraft misuse by individuals wishing to harm the United States and its citizens.” But EAA’s initial review of the 260-page notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) raised several concerns. The agency is seeking public comments on the proposal in the next two months.

EAA’s initial concerns have to do with the low aircraft weight threshold (12,500 MTOW) which would impact an estimated 10,000 aircraft, as well as the expense and logistical burdens associated with requiring fingerprint-based criminal history records check (CHRC) for flight crews, and mandating that operators match passenger manifests against the federal government’s consolidated terrorist watch list through a TSA-approved, third-party service provider. In addition, these measures would be part of a required security program for each operator that would be reviewed on a biennial basis by a third party auditor. Under the proposal, the cost of the background checks, pre-flight passenger screening, and biennial audits would be borne by the individual aircraft owner/operator.

“On first glance, these new regulations would compel many operators of large vintage aircraft, Warbirds, turboprops, and others over 12,500 pounds to comply with new, costly, and burdensome requirements which, frankly, do not appear to equate with their risk assessment profiles,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. “The proposal also ignores that fact that private operators of general aviation aircraft are not carrying the public and are in all instances personally acquainted with their passengers in the same manner as a passenger in your personal automobile. We do not feel that personal-use aircraft should be painted with the same broad brush as commercial and charter operators who carry the public.” EAA’s B-17 annual tour and other organizations who offer historic experience rides in large aircraft would also fall under the new requirements.

“We will analyze the NPRM and submit our comments during the next 60 days, but these are our initial concerns, along with significant trepidation about the impact of this proposal on the rights of U.S. citizens to travel freely about the country,” Macnair added.

LASP would also require 274 reliever airports and 42 other airports that regularly serve large aircraft with scheduled or public charter service to adopt new security programs with potentially significant cost implications for these GA airports.

EAA’s will provide more in-depth analysis of the NPRM in the coming weeks and encourages members to submit comments of their own to the docket. Those wishing to provide comments should follow the instructions beginning on page 2 of the NPRM.

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