General aviation airport inspections and the TSA

In my previous post I covered what an agent of the TSA could “request” of a general aviator. Because the article was so regulation intense, I sent an early draft to the TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs for comment. They afforded me the courtesy of a review with useful comments by my requested deadline. Thank you.

I want to share two comments from my reviewer that go further into TSA authority and assistance. The first comment pertains to the authority of the TSA to conduct airport inspections. The second deals with a useful resource that’s been around a while, but is still worthy of mention.

The regulatory authority for a TSA inspection of an airport is based upon 49 CFR 1542. Specifically, inspection authority is found in 49 CFR 1542.5. But what you really need to know is 49 CFR 1542.1, which describes when the regulation applies.

The airport security regulation applies to airports that serve U.S. and foreign commercial air service as described in 49 CFR 1544 and 1546. This regulation also applies to airports that receive Security Directives (remember 08G?) and Information Circulars. There is a small gotcha in all of this. If an airport doesn’t have a security program that’s approved by the TSA, but serves an aircraft operator that has a security program under 49 CFR 1544 or serves a foreign air carrier under 49 CFR 1546, the airport operator must allow the TSA to enter and be on the airport to inspect the aircraft operator.

So here it is in a nutshell: If you are on a public or private general aviation airport and no one on the airport operates as an air carrier or a commercial operator with a security program under 49 CFR 1544 or 1546, then the TSA has no regulatory authority to conduct an inspection of the airport.

The second point that my reviewer made is that there is a resource made available by the TSA which may be useful to you. Back in 2004 the TSA published the Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports, Information Publication A-001. Despite being over 8 years old, the document still provides practical guidelines for improving security.

Improving security at your airport, in your hangar, and with your aircraft has little to do with inspectors, government agencies and blogging authors. Improving security in our general aviation community has everything to do with each of us who takes good ideas and makes them happen.

Fly safe, and be secure!


Dave Hook, an expert on general aviation security, is president of Planehook Aviation Services, LLC in San Antonio, Texas.


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  1. Matthew Wells says

    Mr. Hook,
    As a Graduate student working on a Thesis revolving around the subject of GA airport security (specifically: voluntary adoption of TSA IP A-001 by the GA community and the “success” of the TSA’s voluntary, risk-based approach to securing GA airports and aircraft not presently under a TSA approved security program), I’m interested in reading anything more you have written on the subject. I enjoyed your article and look forward to your response.
    Sincerely, M. Wells

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