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Okay, now panic

The Denver Post reported today about the impacts of Security Directive 08F on several small commercial service airports in Colorado. To view the article, click here.

DISCLOSURE: Since 08F is a Security Directive and by nature, is Sensitive Security Information, I will not divulge any information here that has not already appeared in the Denver Post article, but will use what is now in the public domain, combined with what is in the Practical Aviation Security book, to explain what is happening to the small commercial service airports.

The article focused on the fact that TSA is now requiring small airports with fixed-base operators and private aircraft operations to badge personnel and start escorting un-badged transient pilots and passengers in certain Security Areas, as a result of 08F. Essentially, this extends the badging requirement normally associated with the Secured Area and the Security Identification Display Area to the Air Operations Area (AOA) with some exceptions.

At many commercial service airports the general aviation areas such as private hangars, fixed-base operators, maintenance shops, flight schools, etc., are designated to be in the AOA, while the commercial service areas are designated to be in the Secured Area. Airport operators were required to use systems, methods and procedures approved by the TSA to ensure that personnel in the AOA do not transit into the Secured Area. And, up until now, AOA’s did not have badging requirements unless so desired by the airport operator. For full descriptors of the aforementioned Security Areas and their baseline regulatory requirements, please see Chapter 5 in Practical Aviation Security. I have also included a vocabulary lesson at the end of this entry for those less familiar with the terminology.

Under the new requirements, now, commercial service airports of any size with designated Security Areas, will be required to badge and conduct Security Threat Assessments on personnel working in the AOA’s. Not part of the requirement is a full fingerprint-based Criminal History Record Check (which is the requirement for badges in the Secured Area and SIDA), which would be far more costly. As it is, the cost of badging hundreds of personnel who normally would not have to be badged, may prove to be burdensome on the small commercial airport operator. This is definitely causing administrative burdens to the smaller airports that generally have much smaller staffs.

Some airports may be able to get relief by switching to supporting security programs (without Security Areas), but it depends on the size and nature of their commercial aircraft operations. Larger aircraft require the complete security programs, which require Security Areas to be designated. 

Background and Clarification: for those of you who are less familiar with airport security, here is a basic primer to help you understand what’s going on here.

First, most commercial service airports have general aviation areas. Despite what the Post article says, even Denver International Airport has a general aviation area. Signature Flight Support has been DIA’s fixed-base operator since the airport opened in 1995. A fixed-base operator (FBO) is similar to a truck stop for private aircraft. Somewhere to get fuel, minor services such as catering, oils, drop off and pick up passengers, etc. Other private operators include flight schools, private corporate operators, charters, and small personal aircraft hangars. 

Previous to this change (08F), GA operators on commercial service airports would usually be in an area designated as an AOA – Air Operations Area. This meant that there were lesser security requirements in those areas, versus the higher requirements associated with activities surrounding the commercial service operations. This change means that operations in the AOA will now have increased security requirements, costs, etc.

Also, an individual in the Post article questioned why there cannot be a universal badge. This has been a long time industry challenge. Nearly all airport access control systems are proprietary and unique in nature – a badge issued at one airport will not work at another. A security benefit to this is that a badge stolen or lost at one airport, only works at that one airport, not throughout the entire aviation system. Since most badges are not (presently) biometric, badging systems do not know who is actually using a badge. However, TSA is encouraging that airport badges incorporate biometrics.

In the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) was promulgated. TWIC is intended to be a universal IDENTIFICATION (note: not ACCESS but I.D.) system for those working in the transportation industry. TWIC has not gotten traction in the aviation industry due to the numerous access control systems that may have to be modified to accept this new identification. However, if TWIC is truly just for ID and not access, then most of the commercial service airports would only have to accept the new ID without changing their access control systems. There are other examples of this such as with the FAA 110A identification form, TSA inspection personnel, air carrier personnel and others.

TWIC has gained traction in the maritime industry and aviation rumor mills say it’s coming to the airport industry at some point.

With TSA’s movement towards the Large Aircraft Security Program, and now including Security Threat Assessments for individuals in the AOA (general aviation areas), I’m going to make a bold prediction. I believe that eventually we will see TWIC in the aviation industry and that it will be grudgingly welcomed as a solution to many of the problems the small airports are now seeing with these new requirements. 

Stay tuned.

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