WHITE PLAINS, NY – In comments made to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials today, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen articulated industry concerns about the agency’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) and offered a process for improving the final rule on the proposal.
At a public hearing held in a packed room at Westchester County Airport, Bolen told TSA representatives their plan fails to recognize the unique needs and challenges of business aviation operations and that left unchanged, the plan would have "unintended and destructive consequences that threaten the well-being of businesses across the U.S. that rely on their airplanes for survival."
Bolen reminded the TSA of the ongoing commitment to security that the business aviation community has demonstrated. "The industry has called for security enhancements, including an Airport Watch program, monitored aircraft transactions, background checks and tamper-proof licenses for pilots," says Bolen. "Clearly, when it comes to effective security enhancements, we have led, not followed the government."
According to Bolen, the security approach outlined in the agency’s LASP proposal – which is in many ways an overlay of airline security measures onto general aviation – would be unduly burdensome without providing a clear security benefit.
Bolen noted four major concerns to illustrate his point:
1.) As the title for the proposal states, the TSA infers that its plan applies to large aircraft, when in fact, it would apply to aircraft as small as 12,500 pounds. "The entire cabin of a 12,500-pound airplane – from windshield to back bulkhead – could comfortably fit sideways into the planes used in the 9/11 attacks," Bolen said. "Make no mistake about it: The 'large aircraft' security program will apply to some very small aircraft, and the weight threshold must be substantially changed."
2.) The proposal contains 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. "Does it really make sense for a company sending a team of employees to fix a problem with one of their assembly lines not to be able to access their tools in flight?" Bolen asked. "Does it really make sense for a sporting goods manufacturer not to be able to access their products in flight, as they try to prepare for a sales presentation?"
3.) The TSA’s proposal would require owners of some airplanes to develop procedures to carry a federal air marshal when told to do so by the TSA. "It’s hard to understand why our Members would ever need a law enforcement officer aboard their plane, because the company owns the plane and knows everyone aboard," Bolen reminded agency officials. "Knowing everything there is to know about who your passenger is changes everything, and the proposal doesn’t seem to recognize that fact."
4.) The proposal would establish a broad requirement that NBAA Members pay for external, third-party audits. "The specifics of the audits are not well-articulated," Bolen said. "But one thing we do know is that outsourcing security is contrary to our national philosophy for use of federal screeners, and in the development of Secure Flight.
"In determining a final rule, we believe it is important that we get this right," Bolen said. "Overly broad or unduly burdensome regulations will needlessly destroy jobs and businesses. There is a better way to approach our shared goal of enhancing security and facilitating operations.