November 5, 2008

NBAA and the business aviation community want to continue working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to harden the industry against terrorist threats.

However, the Association and its Members are very concerned about the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the TSA’s recently released Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), which was published in the Federal Register at the end of October.

Below are some concerns:

Application of the TSA’s proposal to airplanes as small as 12,500 lbs

Despite its name, “The TSA’s “Large Aircraft Security Program” applies to very small planes owned by individuals and small companies. Although the preamble to the proposal suggests that the TSA’s plan will cover airplanes similar to those used by commercial airlines, the fact is that the airlines use airplanes far larger than 12,500 lbs.

Prohibited items

The proposal contains a list of more than 80 “prohibited items,” some of which may be routinely carried aboard business aircraft (everyday tools, for example) because they are central to NBAA Members’ business needs. Does it really make sense for a company sending a team of employees to fix a problem with one of their assembly lines not to be able to access to their tools in flight? Does it really make sense for a sporting goods manufacturer not to be able to access their products in flight as they try to prepare for a sales presentation? Given that most airplanes used in business aviation have little or no cargo space, it will often be hard to determine where the equipment will be stowed.

Procedures for Carrying Federal Air Marshals (FAMs)

The TSA’s proposal would require owners of some airplanes to develop procedures to carry a federal air marshal when told to do so by the TSA, even though it is hard to imagine why a non-commercial operator would ever be required to transport a law enforcement officer. The only people allowed to board a private airplane are the pilots, who are subject to background checks, and individuals well known to the owner—employees, family members or invited guests—all of whom will be confirmed not to be on the watch list.

Third-Party Audits

TSA proposes to require owners of general aviation aircraft to pay independent consultants to conduct security audits. The security requirements subject to audit are not well articulated, so it is difficult to understand the scope of what is being proposed. Therefore, as yet unanswered are important questions about the scope and requirements for the proposed audits, the fees involved for conducting and complying with the audits, and the timeframe required for each audit.

NBAA and the business aviation community want to be a security partner with the TSA, but we are concerned that the TSA’s new proposal misses the mark. We are convinced there are ways to maintain the vital balance between enhancing aviation security and preserving the mobility and flexibility that are at the foundation of business aviation.