On December 10, 2008, the TSA issued Security Directive (SD) 1542-04-08F (SD-08F) to commercial service airports. The SD requires that any person who has access to the airport operations area (AOA) undergo a Security Threat Assessments (STA) and be issued an airport ID. This includes all general aviation owners and operators that reside at the airport. Additionally, the SD requires all persons with regular and frequent access to the AOA to meet the same requirements as persons with access to commercial aircraft. While this is only one portion of the SD, it has had the largest economical and operational impact on airports, aircraft owners and operators.
Since this SD was issued, there continues to be opposition from the general aviation community and from airports that have never had to deal with such a wide-sweeping and costly mandate. Days before the SD deadline of June 1, 2009, TSA released a revised version of the SD, now version SD-08G. TSA allows for some relief to transient pilots in this revised version, explaining that transient pilots in the AOA for refueling, an emergency, or to access the FBO do not need to be issued a badge.
The SD changes many provisions of existing TSA regulations outside the normal regulatory process bypassing critical input and comment from impacted parties. This change is an abuse of the SD process which was established to address specific threats of a finite duration. This change has resulted in a patchwork of non-compatible procedures being implemented at airports nationwide that have the potential to significantly harm general aviation operators and the commercial service airports where they are based. It has also resulted in concerns and unanswered requests for guidance for transient pilots, especially those landing after hours.
Furthermore, security directives are distributed as security sensitive information (SSI), limited to only the regulated entities and those TSA believe have a “need to know.” This has caused a lack of communication and misunderstanding for airport tenants, flight schools, transient pilots and maintenance providers at an airport with commercial airline service.
In June 2009, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) introduced an amendment to the TSA Authorization Act (H.R. 2200) that would reinforce that security directives should only be used to respond to emergencies and immediate threats, not as an alternative to the normal regulatory process. The amendment would clarify that security directives can be issued “in order to respond to an imminent threat of finite duration”; any regulation or SD in effect longer than 180 days would have to go through the public rulemaking process. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 2200 on June 4th. The Senate has not taken any action on TSA Authorization legislation at this time.
Most commercial service airports have complied with SD-08G and issued badging media. However, because of the variety of implementation methods and individual airport policy, some AOPA members continue to experience difficulties accessing aircraft or receiving an airport badge. AOPA continues to monitor the effects of SD-8G and encourages pilots to contact AOPA with any unexpected consequences they have experienced.
AOPA strongly recommends that pilots flying to an airport that offers any type of airline service check the hours of operation , call the FBO for transient pilot security procedures, and to plan ahead if an escort is needed after-hours.
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