Collaboration with general aviation stakeholders is improving recent Transportation Security Administration security measures, members of the House Homeland Security Committee’s transportation and infrastructure protections subcommittee said in a hearing July 15.
Subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) expressed concern and questioned existing GA security measures. The questions were based on a 2007 Houston television news story in which reporters were able to gain access to three local GA airports.
In May 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report that examined the TSA’s role in GA security. The report concluded that the threat posed by GA was limited and the “steps general aviation airport owners and managers have taken to enhance security are positive and effective.” Security officials, members of industry, and the reporter of the news story testified before the subcommittee about the OIG findings and recent security measures that have affected GA, such as the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) and security directives.
Members of the subcommittee, including Jackson Lee and ranking member Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.), also discussed the progress of efforts to find solutions that reflect the differences between commercial and general aviation and do not cripple an industry that brings so much to this country.
Several members of the subcommittee questioned the TSA about its collaboration with stakeholders on the proposed LASP and its use of security directives to establish new security requirements. John Sammon, TSA assistant administrator for transportation sector network management, said the TSA’s consultation with stakeholders is working as the agency takes steps to reduce GA vulnerabilities and attributed the progress to the leadership of AOPA President Craig Fuller.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) commended the TSA for its effort to listen to stakeholders and issue a new or revised notice of proposed rulemaking: “[The] TSA has gone back to seek further stakeholder input on the matter. From what I have heard, all have been pleased with the pragmatic approach the TSA is now taking. I look forward to seeing the new rule that TSA will soon issue.”
A second panel of witnesses outlined the potential effects of overly restrictive regulations on GA and the small businesses it supports. Robert Olislagers, executive director of Centennial Airport, estimated that the LASP would have cost Centennial an additional $300,000 to $1.3 million per year as it was initially proposed. Martha King, AOPA member and co-owner of King Schools, discussed how GA helps her and her husband keep their business efficient by turning travel time into work time and limiting employees’ time out of the office.