May 17, 2004 - The Transportation Security Administration reaffirmed today that it does not consider general aviation aircraft and airports to be a threat, in and of themselves. In its long-awaited guidelines for enhancing security at general aviation airports, the agency said GA airport managers have already undertaken voluntary security measures both before and since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The guidelines, which contain many of AOPA's suggestions, are intended to offer a consistent set of best practices that offer a level of security appropriate to each airport's situation.
"AOPA worked long and hard to make sure TSA made the guidelines relevant to general aviation - that they didn't apply airline airport security to GA," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Now that the federal guidelines are out, it's crucial that decisions by state and local authorities reflect the guidelines and are appropriate to each GA airport's individual situation."
The TSA guidelines state several times that they are not regulatory. The suggestions contained in the document are not mandated changes. The intent, the agency says, is to provide uniform, federally backed guidelines that give airport managers and sponsors a consistent way to evaluate their security needs. "Both TSA and the GA community agree that a single approach to security will not cover the spectrum of the nation's GA airports," said TSA Acting Administrator Adm. David Stone.
AOPA is concerned about how the guidelines might be interpreted and implemented locally. Specifically, there are two appendices that assess security characteristics of airports and offer suggestions for security enhancements. The IP itself notes, "Airport owners and operators should rely on their experience and intimate knowledge of their facility, applying those items that are both reasonable and effective."
TSA plans to adapt and amend the guidelines based on input from the general aviation community. The agency has established a special e-mailbox for collecting feedback. The address is General.Aviation@dhs.gov.
"AOPA will watch closely to see how the guidelines are implemented," said Boyer. "The very credibility of the TSA guidelines is at stake."