WASHINGTON, D.C. – If the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) overlays the security regime for large airlines onto small aircraft, thousands of small and mid-size businesses would be stifled, with no tangible security benefit. That was the message Martha King, co-owner of King Schools Inc., delivered yesterday to congressional lawmakers on behalf of her business and 8,000 other Member Companies with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).
King offered her assessment in testimony before a hearing held by a House security panel to discuss the TSA's controversial Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP).
"Since the events of 9/11, the general aviation community has been very proactive in developing and implementing a large number of workable and effective security measures," King told the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection.
As examples, she pointed to collaboration on general aviation airport guidelines, the monitoring of aircraft financing transactions, and support for requiring government-issued, tamper-proof photo IDs for pilots.
"What general aviation operators seek, and America needs, are measures that do not represent a needless sacrifice in liberty without benefit to society," King continued. She explained that in its current form, the TSA's LASP would unnecessarily limit or prohibit mobility for companies like hers and thousands of others without providing a clear security benefit.
To illustrate her point, King cited several proposals in the LASP that had the potential to severely limit or halt flight operations by businesses needing an airplane. These included:
- A list of more than 80 "prohibited items," some of which may be routinely carried aboard business aircraft because they are central to NBAA Members' business needs.
- A proposal to establish a third-party compliance audit program. The business aviation community is concerned about the plan, because it could actually decrease security, since businesses would be required to reveal internal security procedures to outside parties.
- A proposed requirement to continually vet passengers against a no-fly list. Such lists have at times been inaccurate or incomplete. "We know our passengers – they are our employees and our customers," King said.
"In short, this proposal does not recognize the significant differences between commercial airline operations and non-commercial operations, which do not carry members of the general public," she said. "General aviation operators know personally everyone on our aircraft."
King maintained that the most effective approach to fixing the proposal so that it would enhance security without sacrificing the flexibility and mobility inherent in business aviation was through the formation of a committee to facilitate a dialogue between industry and government.
"I believe general aviation security would be best enhanced by having the TSA establish a rulemaking committee to address the questions and concerns raised by industry and the public on the LASP," King said. "This type of forum – often used by the FAA and other government agencies – has proven benefits."
King reiterated the business aviation community's commitment to continue working with government policymakers on effective and workable security measures.
"The freedom of movement of private citizens has always been one of our great American ideals," she concluded. "We are confident that we can ensure security without sacrificing that ideal."