Pilots unhappy with TSA security directive

April 9, 2009

As reports of new security badge requirements and background checks continue to surface at airports across the country, pilots have cried out to AOPA, expressing their concerns over the surprise requirements and demanding answers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

One concerned member recently wrote to AOPA, saying “…the bigger issue is the TSA/DHS and the ‘secret’ security directives being implemented with very little publicity.”

The lack of publicity is a result of the directive’s classification as “sensitive security information.” Because of this classification, information about it has been coming to pilots piecemeal in the form of unexplained mandates at their airports. The mandate is not required to go through the public comment period either.

Under the current version of the directive, pilots based at air carrier airports are required to undergo a security threat assessment and receive a security badge in order to continue to have unescorted access to their airports.

AOPA has been working with the TSA since the security directive, known as Security Directive 8F (SD-08F), was first released in December 2008 and has urged the agency to work with those in the general aviation industry to develop a better plan that is less burdensome and restrictive on pilots.

As a result, the agency has pushed back the deadline for compliance to June 1 and has said that it would address industry concerns.

“Despite AOPA’s warnings early on about the impact, many GA pilots were caught off guard when airports began to comply with the new guidance,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “The TSA and airports need to develop alternatives to the security directive’s requirements that would lessen its impact on GA.”

Pilots should take note that SD-08F is not meant to affect pilots traveling from one GA airport to another; nor is its intent to impact GA pilots stopping at commercial airports for a touch and go or fuel stop.

The directive only targets those who have regular, unescorted access to the aircraft operating area, secure areas, or security identification display areas at commercial airports. It will affect about 280 of 430 regulated airports.