Regulatory and Certification Policy
Regulatory Brief: TSA Large Aircraft Security Program
On October 9, 2008 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced its Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) proposal to apply commercial air carrier security measures to general aviation aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, regardless of the type of operation. The proposal is burdensome and costly, calling for crewmember criminal record checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, biennial third party audits of each aircraft operator, and new airport security requirements.
Why is this important?
The proposal fails to recognize the inherent differences that exist between private and commercial aviation and attempts to impose costly and unnecessary security regulations without justification.
AOPA’s 414,000 members continue to be committed to strengthening GA security, but the proposed rule raises concerns.
- Applies commercial standards to GA operations. In applying commercial security standards to individual aircraft owners and operators under Part 91, the rule does not take into account the inherent differences between commercial air travel and private operations, nor does it explain why less intrusive measures could not achieve comparable levels of security.
- Weight threshold. The large aircraft described by the TSA typically have eight to 10 seats and are commonly referred to within the industry as light jets. Medium-size jets weigh roughly 25,000 pounds, and the largest jets have maximum takeoff weights approaching 80,000 pounds. However, even the largest of these aircraft weigh 10 tons less than the smallest airliner the TSA used as justification for the rule. The reasons for imposing weight-based, rather than operation-based, compliance are not explained.
- Expansion to all aircraft and all airports. Because the proposal does not recognize the inherent differences between commercial and GA operations, AOPA sees the potential for these requirements to be applied to the entire GA fleet in the future. Similarly, although approximately 312 airports would initially be regulated by the TSA, the security requirements could be expanded to include the additional 4,300 public-use airports across the country.
- Outsourcing regulatory oversight. Security oversight has been established as an inherent government function, and AOPA has concerns with outsourcing it to a third-party auditor. The proposed biennial third-party audits are costly to operators, who will have to pay (unsubsidized) market rates for audits that should be conducted, or at least paid for, by the government. Further, no system for auditor accountability exists, and the proposal lacks critical information on how operators will be able to challenge audit errors.
The 415,000 members of AOPA are committed to taking appropriate steps to enhance GA security. However, the proposed rule will, for the first time, apply commercial and charter air carrier security requirements to GA. AOPA has concerns with this approach and its implications for GA owners and operators. In a series of public meetings that have been held, an overwhelming majority of commenter’s have reinforced that the application of commercial standards on general aviation is unnecessary and fails to take into account the inherent differences that exist between private and commercial operations. AOPA does not support the NPRM as currently drafted and requests that TSA seek industry input to develop more appropriate and less costly alternatives to enhance GA security.
Status of the NPRM
There has been significant progress with TSA on developing alternatives for the Large Aircraft Security Program. After the TSA received almost 8,000 public comments and pressure from Congress, TSA went back to the drawing board to rewrite the proposal and then release it as a Supplement Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM). AOPA participated in several joint TSA and Industry meetings to examine possible ways to improve security for larger aircraft without unduly burdening or the imposition of unrealistic, invasive and expensive requirements. AOPA was instrumental in the development and promotion of “trusted pilot” concept as the cornerstone to any new proposed regulation. The “trusted pilot” concept allows a vetted pilot to decide who and what can be loaded onto the aircraft.
Gone are many of the most objectionable provisions of the NPRM and it appears that the applicable weight will be significantly raised from 12,500 lbs. to cover aircraft greater than 30,000 (Beech Hawker and above). The focus has shifted from requiring Partial Security Programs at the affected airports to securing the aircraft.
By late 2009, TSA informed AOPA that the new SNPRM has been drafted and is currently under review at the TSA Office of Chief Counsel. A release date has not yet been set, but AOPA expects to see the draft by late 2010.
Summary of expected changes:
- Increased weight threshold
- No third party audits
- No watch list matching
- No federal air marshals
- Trusted pilot who has final authority over items and people on the aircraft.
- Less emphasis on airport security plan, more emphasis and securing the aircraft
- Oct. 9, 2008—TSA announces Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
- Oct. 30, 2008—LASP published in the Federal Register
- Dec. 17, 2008—TSA announces public hearings to be held at the following locations and dates:
- White Plains, NY, Jan. 6, 2009—Standing room only as pilots from the Northeast expressed their displeasure with the rule. Read the AOPA testimony.
- Atlanta, GA, Jan. 8, 2009—Passionate crowd packed the meeting room with several commenter’s receiving standing ovations from the audience. Read the AOPA testimony.
- Chicago, IL, Jan. 16, 2009—Approximately 300 people turned out on a sub-zero day to let TSA know about their concerns regarding the proposal. Read the AOPA testimony.
- Burbank, CA, Jan. 23, 2009—More than 200 pilots from California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona agreed the TSA missed the mark on its proposal and needed to go back to the drawing board. Read the AOPA testimony.
- Houston, TX, Jan. 28, 2009—With nearly 300 people in attendance and 89 speakers at the final public hearing on the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), Transportation Security Administration officials got an earful. Read the AOPA testimony.
- February 27, 2009—Official comment period closes. Read AOPA’s Formal Comments.
- April 6, 2009—Stakeholder meeting with TSA. Read the AOPA coverage with comments from AOPA President Craig Fuller.
- May 8, 2009—Stakeholder meeting with TSA.
- June 15, 2009—Stakeholder meeting with TSA.
- June, 2009—Present: TSA is re-writing the proposal and will release as a Supplemental NPRM, release expected by late 2010.