Senators reflect pilots' dissatisfaction with security directive

June 11, 2009

Because of the sudden implementation of a Transportation Security Administration security directive (SD-08G), many pilots and airport personnel are struggling to adjust to the requirements. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, expressing pilots' concerns.

Baucus stressed to Napolitano the importance of GA, explaining that “Across rural areas of Montana, general aviation is [the] lifeblood to people in isolated towns.” He also pointed out “an unfunded mandate…may disproportionately impact rural airports and general aviation, both of which are very important to many of these rural communities.”

Under the new security directive, pilots who are based at air-carrier airports will have to get a badge in order to have unescorted access to the airport. Transient pilots flying into air-carrier airports must remain close to their aircraft, leaving it only to walk to and from the fixed-base operator, service provider, or airport exit. However, the TSA has said that it will make provisions for self-fueling operations and grant allowances for emergency situations.

Tester noted that “there needs to be a better understanding of the costs of these security changes, particularly to small, rural airports.”

He also questioned the need for the regulations to be put through the emergency SD process: “The emergency security directive process was granted to TSA by Congress to allow emergency action to be taken to save lives,” when immediate threats existed. “That it has taken six months to implement this security directive raises questions about the necessity of the emergency rulemaking process in this case…. It appears that greater transparency and public comment would only have improved the relationship between the TSA and the pilots and airport directors who are on the front lines of the general aviation industry.”