The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) finalized its aircraft repair station security rules on Jan. 13.
The regulation’s purpose is “to reduce the likelihood that terrorists would be able to use large aircraft [over 12,500 pounds] as a weapon.” Nonetheless, the final regulation applies to all repair stations certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under 14 CFR Part 145 (domestic and foreign), except those located on U.S. or foreign government military bases. (Canadian repair stations are not covered because they are not issued a repair station certificate by the FAA.)
Those repair stations located on or adjacent to an airport (if there is an access point between the repair station and the airport large enough to move a large (12,500 pounds) aircraft) must implement new security measures, including:
- Designating a point(s) of contact to carry out specified responsibilities;
- Preventing the unauthorized operation of large aircraft capable of flight that are left unattended; and
- Verifying background information of those individuals who are designated as the TSA point(s) of contact and those who have access to the measure(s) used to prevent the unauthorized operation of unattended, large aircraft capable of flight.
So, as an aviation mechanic, what do you need to know about the new rule? Regardless of where your Part 145 repair station is located, TSA can issue Security Directives and conduct unannounced security inspections. Don’t be surprised if TSA is knocking at your door!
Point of contact
However, if you’re located on or adjacent to an airport, more changes could be afoot at your facility. Every repair station is mandated to designate point(s) of contact (POCs) for TSA available 24 hours, seven days a week. POCs have several responsibilities, including:
- Accountability for compliance with the regulation;
- Serving as the primary person(s) for security-related activities and communications with TSA;
- Maintaining records of all employees responsible for controlling keys (or other approved means) used to gain access to the aircraft; and
- Retaining records associated with the background of all individuals designated as POCs and those who have access to any keys or other means used to prevent the operation of large aircraft.
Not just any employee can be a POC; you must hold a valid airman (mechanic or repairman) certificate issued by the FAA, acquire a security threat assessment (by holding a SIDA badge, for example), or a background check must be completed for the most recent five-year period or the time since the employee’s 18th birthday, whichever is shorter. A gap in employment of six months or longer without a satisfactory explanation is unacceptable.
Whether you are designated a POC by your repair station or not, you could still be chosen to prevent unauthorized operation of unattended, large aircraft. TSA lists several approved means for rendering an airplane incapable of flight, including blocking the path of the aircraft to thwart movement (such as using a vehicle), parking the aircraft in a locked hangar, and moving the stairs away from the aircraft (and locking all doors, if possible). Other means can be approved by TSA in writing (as of publication, the agency hasn’t clarified how to get acceptance of the “other means”).
Regardless of what approach your repair station implements, a crucial component of all methods is maintaining control of the keys; they must only be available to authorized individuals having undergone proper background checks. For example, if a vehicle is used to block the aircraft to prevent movement, only authorized employees may have access to the car/truck keys. Similarly, if the aircraft is locked in a hangar, only approved personnel should be able to unlock it.
TSA believes the rule is clear and straightforward. However, when a diverse industry is implementing government mandates, questions and unintended consequences need to be addressed. ARSA is working with TSA to ensure it appreciates the complexities of the industry and repair stations understand compliance with the new regulations
Daniel B. Fisher is ARSA’s vice president of legislative affairs and senior legislative associate at the law firm of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod and Klein. Fisher attended St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he graduated magna cum laude, and received a law degree from George Mason University School of Law. Prior to joining ARSA, Fisher served four years on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee staff of the late Sen. Arlen Specter (PA).
For more information visit www.arsa.org.