Senate committee discusses GA security

December 4, 2009

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee discussed general aviation security and how to incorporate industry input into security regulations during a Dec. 2 hearing about post-9/11 transportation security challenges.

Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) expressed his views on GA security during the hearing, indicating in his written statement that he remains “deeply concerned about the state of aviation security, especially general aviation security and air cargo security.”

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) made it a point to discuss GA security as well, cautioning against overregulation of the industry.

Brownback said that the GA industry, which is important to the Kansas economy, has been decimated due to the economic downturn. He noted that the industry is concerned that overregulation could make GA cost-prohibitive, which in turn could shut down GA operations and airports. He added that GA stakeholders had a strong reaction to the proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), and emphasized that any regulations should still allow GA to fly.

“While it is extremely important our country addresses the many areas of national security, I believe it is also essential to note some of the impressive accomplishments industry has made to secure our transportation sector in a way that doesn’t unduly burden international travel and commerce,” Brownback said in a statement after the hearing. “One bright spot is the steps being taken throughout the business aviation industry. Through initiatives like the Airport Watch Program, The Transportation Security Administration Access Certificate program, and the adoption of best practices training and awareness seminars, the business aviation community has continued to show its commitment to ensuring safe airways.”

Brownback also questioned Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the department’s plans for LASP and noted that the industry has made suggestions to improve the rule, which would impose airline-style security regulations on many GA aircraft.

Napolitano said industry comments were useful and that the department is re-examining the model used to come up with the weight threshold, originally set at 12,500 pounds. Addressing the security issues presented by GA while maintaining a robust GA sector is one of the purposes of LASP, she said in her submitted testimony.

“TSA has sought out input from GA stakeholders throughout its rulemaking process for LASP, receiving 8,000 comments in response to the initial NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking], conducting five public meetings and holding additional comment outreach sessions with impacted stakeholders to gain further input and feedback,” she said. “TSA plans to issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking before the end of 2010 that incorporates this input and addresses some of the concerns of GA stakeholders.”