Okay let’s get this thing kicked off. The big industry buzz lately is the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that the TSA has put forth on private airplanes – the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP). The proposal has been very controversial. It first came out as a daunting 240+ page document that will affect general aviation aircraft and general aviation airports. Keep in mind, since 9/11 the TSA largely stayed away from private aircraft operations and general aviation airports. Publicly, they have stated there is not a current threat from the general aviation community, however there are a variety of scenarios that could be dreamed up utilizing a general aviation plane for ill intent. Even TV shows such as “The Unit” and past history has shown general aviation can be used to attack ground targets. Another interesting point is that when I conduct my industry training many airport security professionals feel that there is a potential threat from general aviation; however, when asked what should be done about GA many of those same people disagree. So we’re not going to debate whether there is a threat or not… just yet.
What we are going to talk about is whether this rulemaking will be effective, or an expensive way to jump through a lot of hoops to try and show the public that they are doing something about these “little planes.” Currently, there are regulations in place for commercial aircraft operations including public and private charters. This rulemaking would be the first regulation to directly affect private operations (excluding the regulations that have been applied to flight schools, and the added airspace restrictions). The National Business Aviation Association has an excellent summary of the impact of the Large Aircraft Security Program. Click Here.
Essentially, the LASP would be applied to any aircraft in excess of 12,500 pounds. It would place restrictions such as background checks on flight crew, screening for certain flight operations, the addition of federal air marshals to private aircraft, and for airport operators partial commercial service-like security programs.
Oddly enough, this goes against the grain of how TSA has handled general aviation in the past. When TSA addressed general aviation airports they formed a committee of GA users and trade associations to help develop sensible guidelines, which TSA eventually formalized as recommendations. No such committee was formed in this rulemaking. The public meetings have just begun, and already private aircraft operators are pointing out a tremendous flaws in TSA’s logic. Some of these flaws include breathtaking underestimation’s of the financial impact of these rules. Others have pointed out that there is no one within the GA security office at TSA with actual GA experience. Unfortunately for the GA community, some recent personnel shifting saw the loss of some good people that were in that office.
The rulemaking closes in February. I encourage you to check out the following websites for the details of this program, so that we can talk about it knowledgeably. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (www.aopa.org), the National Business Aviation Association (www.nbaa.org), and the American Association of Airport Executives (www.aaae.org). We will be talking about it in this blog, so let’s get the discussion going.