TSA chief urged to break security plan impasse

February 21, 2013

Restrictive security rules in effect at Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport have choked off access to general aviation facilities, killing off businesses and driving other tenants from the premises, said AOPA and elected officials in letters urging the head of the Transportation Security Administration to intercede in stalled local efforts to fix the problem.

The lack of approval by local TSA security officials of an amended airport security plan—despite three recent attempts by a security committee to present ways to make general aviation facilities more accessible—illustrates a wider problem of inconsistent security policies across the country, said AOPA President Craig Fuller in a Feb. 21 letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole.

The security procedures blocking much access to general aviation premises at Grand Junction (GJT) resulted from Security Directive 1542-04-08F/G, issued by the TSA in 2008 and requiring security threat assessments and airport-issued identification for all persons having access to commercial-service airports’ operations areas.

Those measures “have had a devastating economic impact on the businesses and tenants that operate at GJT, and many have been forced to close or relocate to other airports in western Colorado,” Fuller wrote. “A resolution and amendment to the GJT Airport Security Plan has been going back and forth between the Grand Junction Airport Board and the TSA Western Colorado Security Director without resolve for some time.”

Fuller informed Pistole that TSA headquarters staff has not acted following a meeting with AOPA on Jan. 23, “despite numerous follow-up phone calls and emails” from the association. He urged the TSA chief to act as quickly as possible to head off “further economic hardship and public access difficulty” at Grand Junction Regional.

Congressional delegation weighs in

Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-District 3) sent a joint letter to Pistole, urging an expeditious resolution “due to the strain that the airport’s existing security protocol is placing on the community’s interests.”

If the current proposal is found “noncompliant” despite input from numerous stakeholders, the elected officials requested that the TSA chief provide “a detailed written explanation of the insufficiencies.”

Fuller, in his letter, added that the problem in Grand Junction is not unique. Other airport managers have told AOPA that guidance they receive from local federal security directors “is inconsistent and unclear.”

AOPA looks forward to an opportunity to follow up with the agency on that larger issue, he wrote to Pistole.

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.