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EAA Continues to Fight TSA Airport Security Directive

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April 23, 2009 — The June 1 implementation deadline for the controversial TSA Security Directive 1542-08F looms with no firm indication that TSA will adjust its position in response to protests and concerns from EAA and other general aviation groups.

The directive applies to airports where general aviation operations coexist with scheduled airline service, even where the airline service is scant. Some details of the TSA directive started coming to light late last year, as airport officials began advising airport users to prepare for security changes.
Since then, EAA has partnered with AOPA, NBAA, GAMA, and other aviation-interest groups to voice concerns to the TSA and to raise awareness of these concerns on The Hill. The groups believe the measures called for in the security directive are unnecessary, do not enhance national security, are costly and impractical, and threaten to stifle valuable general aviation activity.

Furthermore, the groups have objected to the TSA’s methodology. The TSA packaged the new requirements as a security directive to airport managers instead of treating the sweeping terms as regulatory changes requiring public comment. In doing this, the TSA operated under a veil of secrecy, avoiding the disclosures and solicitation of interested-party feedback that a rulemaking (regulatory) process demands.

Because of this approach, even today not all details about this security program are known. However, enough of the puzzle pieces have come to light to provide a picture of the directive’s major provisions. If adopted in full by the June 1 deadline, the directive would:

  • apply only to airports that have commercial airline service, even those that have only a handful of airline operations per week and those where commercial and general aviation operations are already well-segregated;
  • institute background checks and require I.D. badges for all aircraft operators, passengers, and related personnel based at these airports, including general aviation airport users;
  • require anyone who does not have an airport-issued I.D. to have an authorized escort, even at airports that are sparsely staffed; and
  • leave specific implementation methods and details to each respective airport, resulting in a lack of standardization of airport-security policies, procedures, and protocols.

EAA government affairs representatives continue to press the aviation community’s concerns with the TSA, with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, and with key legislative contacts in influential committees on Capitol Hill. Important arguments against the security directive include:

  • It’s redundant. Through the auspices of the FAA, the government already has extensive information on the owners and operators of general aviation aircraft.
  • It’s inflexible. The directive’s major requirements would apply similar requirements at small, remote airports and much busier, high-traffic airports, even though the security needs at these are likely very different. Also, it appears that the directive would treat the security sensitivity of different areas of the airport uniformly, even though these areas may have quite different security considerations and sensitivities.
  • Its required practices are not standardized. Whereas the major requirements discussed above are too inflexible, at the other end of the spectrum the details regarding how to put these provisions in practice are left up to each individual airport. The onus will be on owners and operators to keep track of the differences. (TSA indicates, however, that the background checks and badge requirements would not apply to transient aircraft.)

The goal is to convince the TSA to explore with the aviation groups alternatives that would address the TSA’s objectives without suppressing general aviation activity and public access to general aviation airports.

Grassroots activism may also become a necessary complement to our efforts. Please stay alert for more information on this issue, and for the possibility of a call for broad member action.

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