July 15, 2010

Can access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) be made more workable in a way that continues to address federal officials’ security concerns regarding flights over the nation’s capital?

That was the question on the table at a recent meeting of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials and industry stakeholders, according to Doug Carr, NBAA Vice President for Safety, Security & Regulation. Carr attended the meeting accompanied by representatives with five NBAA Member Companies who are among the top business aviation users at DCA.

Plans for the gathering began taking shape last month, when Brian Delauter, general manager of TSA’s General Aviation branch, called for a “small summit” to determine if the current security plan for DCA – known as the DCA Access Standard Security Plan (DASSP) – could be simplified.

In the early years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, business aviation operations at the airport were prohibited entirely. After extensive advocacy by NBAA and others in the general aviation community, federal security officials allowed access into the airport only through the DASSP, which includes a host of stringent rules for operators. The requirements are sufficiently rigorous that many operators have elected to bypass the airport entirely. Studies conducted by NBAA and others have concluded that the sharp drop-off in business aviation activity at Reagan National has had an adverse economic impact on the Washington region.

Representing the business aviation community at the half-day session, Carr noted that NBAA Members had told him that the two reasons Association Members most often elect not to utilize TSA’s DASSP are that the operating company is not based at one of several “portal” airports, at which TSA requires an aircraft to stop for a security check before proceeding to Reagan National (eliminating the efficiency that is the hallmark of business aviation), and the DASSP’s requirement that all aircraft flying into Reagan National carry an Armed Security Officer, who is often the only person on the airplane who is unknown to the flight crew and passengers.

“Security is a top priority for business aviation, and we certainly want to continue on our record of working with government officials to ensure that flight security isn’t compromised,” Carr said. “At the same time, there is a general recognition among NBAA Members that the requirements for flying into DCA are so onerous that they add up to a de facto prohibition on access to the airport. At this week’s summit, NBAA provided TSA officials with number of suggestions and alternatives to the existing DASSP program that would improve upon the established process while ensuring a consistent level of security.”

Over the next several months, TSA will review the input received at the meeting between industry and government to determine the most effective course of action. “We appreciate the time Mr. Delauter provided to hear our industry’s concerns and suggestions, and we look forward to continuing to work with he and other TSA officials to try to make access to Reagan National Airport more workable,” Carr concluded. For additional information, contact NBAA’s Doug Carr at dcarr@nbaa.org.