GA working group meets with TSA on security issues

October 27, 2010

The Aviation Security Advisory Committee’s general aviation working group, on which AOPA serves, met to discuss a variety of issues and initiatives Oct. 25 at the headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration.

The group, which provides industry involvement in security decision making, looked into ways to make temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) more manageable for GA aircraft; a TSA request for feedback on a security grants program; better GA access to Ronald Reagan-Washington National Airport; updating the 2004 Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports; and other issues.  

John and Martha King, the well-known flight training personalities, also attended the all-day session, joining a review of the causes and ramifications of their Aug. 28 confrontation with police at the Santa Barbara, Calif., airport that was precipitated by the erroneous reporting of their Cessna 172’s N number to law enforcement authorities as that of a stolen aircraft. Officials have acknowledged that better interagency coordination of databases, and improved aircraft registration methods, might have prevented the dangerous incident.

Several members of the GA working group will follow up the day’s session by meeting to develop suggestions for reducing the economic impact of TFRs on GA operations at affected airports. Some TFRs have required local aviation businesses to cease or severely limit their activity while the TFRs have been in effect. AOPA has called for stakeholder participation in this process as a result of the impact of past TFRs in Las Vegas, Nev., Chicago, Ill., and elsewhere.

Security grants and gathering information to determine what projects to undertake were also discussed. The TSA will be required to provide grants to GA airports for security-upgrade projects, although legislation to distribute the funds has not yet been passed.  

“The GA staff at TSA would like to have a proposal ready, and information in place, should they receive appropriations. TSA asked the group for feedback on what considerations belong in the grant program. Many in the group suggested that the grant money be specifically allocated to ‘GA-only’ airports that cannot receive funding from FAA for security enhancements,” said Brittney Miculka, AOPA manager of security and borders, who represented the association at the meeting.

The TSA is now conducting airport visits to validate information gathered in its GA Airport Vulnerability Assessment, which could lay the groundwork for the grant awards.  TSA had sent out surveys to approximately 3,000 GA airports last spring, and will report findings to Congress by year end, Miculka said.

TSA representatives summarized their meeting of this summer with the top five GA operators that fly into Ronald Reagan-Washington National Airport, and shared suggestions on how to increase the number of GA flights into the airport and make its Access Security Program more user-friendly, said Brian Delauter, manager of the TSA General Aviation office. He said that new updates and enhancements will be released soon.

Revising the 2004 Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports will be a task for AOPA and several of the working group’s members. An important component of the update may be new TSA regulations expected within the next 12 months including the Large Aircraft Security Program, Repair Station Security, and the GA Airport Vulnerability Assessment.

The group also took up the Alien Flight Student Rule, focusing on the need to update the program to make it more workable for foreign pilots and the flight schools that train them.

The GA working group was formed in September 2009, and meets twice yearly to review security issues and new developments.

The Aviation Security Advisory Committee was established in 1989 by the FAA with a mission of examining civil aviation security and recommending improvements for methods, equipment and procedures. ASAC recommendations are reviewed by the ASAC Secretariat within the TSA’s office of transportation strategic policy, and forwarded to the administrator for consideration in future rulemaking actions and security program amendments. On Nov. 19, 2001, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) was signed into law, establishing the TSA and giving it responsibility for civil aviation security. Sponsorship of the ASAC then transferred to the TSA.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.