Security comes to Summit

A collaborative approach between the Transportation Security Administration, AOPA, and other stakeholders in the general aviation community is leading to changes in the Large Aircraft Security Program that TSA announced in late 2008, AOPA President Craig Fuller said Nov. 6, during a Center Stage Live discussion with TSA Assistant Administrator John Sammon.

Fuller said it was his understanding that, as a result of TSA meetings with GA organizations after public comments to the notice of proposed rulemaking closed, TSA was looking at an aircraft weight limit higher than the 12,500 pounds initially proposed.

“We said, ‘We have these security concerns—how would you approach them?’” Sammon replied. Changes to the proposal have been outlined and are being reviewed by the attorneys, he said. “They really are a summary of best practices from people who are flying day in and day out.”

Security was the first major issue Fuller had to address after he became AOPA’s leader in January. While most of the TSA’s emphasis and manpower have focused on airports with airline service, Sammon noted that the agency is responsible for assuring the security of all transportation modes.

Fuller asked Sammon why pilots have to wear security identification badges at commercial airports—could adding a photo to pilot certificates address that concern? “We should sit down and talk about that,” Sammon answered, explaining that pilots of larger aircraft already are vetted. “It’s really an invisible process to the pilots….I think the badging issue could be made simpler. You don’t want somebody walking around with 14 badges around their neck—that would be silly.”

Sammon also said progress was being made on some improvements to the Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s system for filing online reports for travel into or out of the United States. “We’ve been having conversations with the Canadians for some time about looking at one North American airspace,” he explained.

Fuller told Sammon that AOPA appreciates the TSA’s willingness to listen to and work with the GA community. Sammon credited Fuller’s leadership for the collaborative approach to security, adding that pilots can provide the best security. “They’re out at the airfield every day, flying airplanes,” he said. “They know what’s normal and what’s not.”

November 6, 2009