Inside look: TSA’s GA manager has the ‘aviation bug’

March 24, 2011

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General aviation pilots and the Transportation Security Administration sometimes seem to have a love-hate relationship, even though both focus on GA security. Could TSA General Manager for the Office of General Aviation Brian Delauter be a peacemaker?

Delauter understands GA. After taking his first flight in a GA aircraft at the age of 16, Delauter says he “caught the bug like anybody else.” He went on to earn his pilot certificate, build time as a flight instructor, do some corporate flying, work for NetJets, and fly for Northwest Airlines until the layoffs after Sept. 11, 2001.

He once owned a Cessna 172SP, but his favorite aircraft is a little roomier.

“If I won the lottery, my favorite airplane in the whole world is an A36 [Bonanza],” Delauter said in an exclusive AOPA Live interview. “… when I was a flight instructor, and when you’re flying a 152 everyday, and you suddenly step into a brand new A36, it’s like getting into your first sports car for the first time.”

Because Delauter lived and worked in the GA industry, he also understands the close-knit community pilots form, and he uses that knowledge to help shape policies within the TSA.

For example, Delauter has helped lead the effort to rework the Large Aircraft Security Program proposal that received so many outcries from the industry that the TSA agreed to go back to the drawing board. Delauter was hired into the GA general manager role as the TSA was pulling the proposal. He told AOPA Live that he wanted to take a good look at all of the comments that were submitted to come up with a workable proposal.

 “Hopefully people will see it for the better,” he said of the proposal that the TSA should soon send to the Department of Homeland Security and Office of Management and Budget before it is released for comment as a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking. “I think when they see it, they’re gonna understand, ‘Oh, that’s my comment. That’s why that was changed.’”

Delauter also has worked with AOPA and Customs and Border Protection to streamline the process for pilots flying internationally. Previously, pilot had to complete an electronic Advance Passenger Information System flight manifest and an international waiver, something the association pointed out was redundant.

Delauter is also part of the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something. Say Something” voluntary program that encourages everyone, including pilots, to stop, look, and listen for suspicious activity and report any such instances.

“It was trying to go to the next level of Airport Watch,” Delauter said, acknowledging AOPA’s strong role in working with the TSA to develop the program aimed at GA airports.

“We as aviators are the eyes and ears,” he said, encouraging pilots to be an advocate for security within their airport communities to remind one another to lock their hangars and aircraft. Delauter likened it to instructors drilling into their students the need to close their flight plans so that the instructors don’t get a call in the middle of the night.

“Let’s help each other out,” he said. Later he added, “We all have a responsibility in this as a community, and we consider it almost a large community watch program, and it’s from the 152 pilot all the way up to the G5 pilot—that’s general aviation.”