NBAA 20th Annual Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference

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Attendees Learn: Large Aircraft Security Proposal Has Potential to Hobble Business Aviation

LONG BEACH, CA, January 16, 2009 – Industry leaders urged everyone who attended a Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) briefing Thursday in Long Beach, CA, during the NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference to make time to submit comments regarding the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) proposed rule and to express their opposition to their representatives before the potentially catastrophic proposal is adopted.

NBAA’s Doug Carr, vice president, safety, security & regulation, warned Attendees that the onerous TSA proposal would directly affect everyone in business aviation, not just operators of aircraft of more than 12,500 pounds. “This is a real concern for the freedoms you will be losing as a result of this proposal.”

Carr, who characterized the LASP as imposition of airline security measures on general aviation, not a security plan tailored to the unique operations of business flying, highlighted some of the proposal’s most worrisome provisions:

  • Pilots would be fingerprinted and subject to a criminal history background check. If an aviator had committed any of 28 offenses, they would be prohibited from flying.
  • Passengers’ names would be compared against two lists – the TSA’s “No Fly List” and a so-called “Selectee List,” which would permit a passenger to board a flight, but only after he or she was subject to extra screening. If a passenger’s name came up on either list, the problem would have to be resolved before the flight could depart. Operators would have to check passengers’ names on each flight, or they could submit a “master passenger list,” which would require providing the TSA with additional personal information on the passengers, similar to the data found on a passport.
  • Third party “watch-list service providers” would conduct the actual passenger checking by comparing passenger names sent by operators against the TSA lists. The watch-list service provider would send the results to the operator, but discrepancies would need to be resolved by the TSA.
  • The TSA has identified a total of 88 prohibited items that cannot be brought into aircraft cabins, including tools, golf clubs and ski poles. Carr noted that one operator that uses his airplane to move delicate laser-based equipment around the country would be put out of business by this requirement.
  • Operators would have to pay a contractor to audit their security program every two years. The TSA estimates each audit would cost $2,000, a figure that Carr said is “significantly underestimated.”
  • Any aircraft weighing more than 100,000 pounds would need to carry a federal air marshal on board when directed by the TSA. “We have real constitutional concerns about this requirement,” said Carr.
  • Some 314 airports would be subject to a new security program that would require them to provide security training to local law-enforcement officers and airport operations staff, manage sensitive security information, erect new signage and develop a system for notifying federal and state officials of security concerns. Incredibly, the list of airports includes a floatplane base near Anchorage, AK.

NBAA Actions to Date

Immediately after the LASP was published on October 30, NBAA asked for an extension of the original two-month comment period. Comments now can be filed until February 27. (To learn how to submit comments, visit www.nbaa.org/lasp). As of January 9, more than 1,500 comments, virtually all of them opposing the proposal, had been posted. NBAA Members have been active in this effort.

Also, NBAA filed a freedom of information request to review the internal TSA study of general aviation security that serves as the basis for the LASP rule. To date, the Association has not heard back from the agency. Meanwhile, NBAA continues to work with other Washington, DC-based aviation associations – including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Air Transportation Association and various airport groups – to fight the proposed rule.

Among the challenges that aviation advocates face is the impending departure, as a result of the election, of all the top TSA officials responsible for developing the proposal. NBAA has reached out to the Obama transition team and to the office of incoming Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, asking her to at least slow the rulemaking process down before the LASP is finalized.

However, Carr and others believe that the key to modifying the proposed security program will be for the entire business aviation community to express their displeasure to regulators and legislators.

Public hearings – which have been held in White Plains, NY and Chicago and will be conducted in Burbank, CA and Houston – represent “one of few opportunities we have to convey the passion, the concern, the fear that we have about this rule,” asserted Carr. “I highly encourage you to attend [these meetings]. NBAA alone cannot stop this [proposed rule]. Only by the community raising overwhelming concerns will TSA get the message that this proposal did not get it right. Only through your involvement can we have a chance of modifying this. They [regulators] need to hear why this won’t work. Emotion is good, but data will help tremendously.”

Charlie Leblanc, president of Houston-based security consultant ASI Group and a member of NBAA’s Security Council, declared, “This is the slippery [regulatory] slope we have all been worrying about since 9/11. From a security perspective, the LASP doesn’t just fall short; it completely misses the mark. It takes a unique form of transportation and puts into the box of commercial aviation.”

Leblanc urged operators to focus their criticism on the flawed economic impact assessments of the proposal. “The audit number is way off,” he said, and “if the numbers are not right, that is something you need to point out.” He also noted that the administrative costs of the rule are not properly addressed in the proposal and suggested that operators might want to mention how the cost burden has the potential to put more people out of work.

Roger Rose, vice president of operations for contract pilot provider International Pilot Services of Palm Beach Gardens, FL said, “This kind of security is punitive and intrusive. When you go home from this meeting, educate your people about the invasive and potentially calamitous impact of this renegade ruling.” He urged everyone to voice their opposition to the LASP because “we are the only ones who can stop this.”

For more information on the TSA’s LASP proposal, visit www.nbaa.org/lasp.

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