The TSA should withdraw its security directive mandating badging at airports serving commercial air carriers, and consult affected parties and find a sensible alternative instread, general aviation leaders said on May 19 in a joint letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
AOPA President Craig Fuller and leaders of other trade associations wrote that Security Directive 8F (SD-08F) could affect GA operators adversely and limit GA pilots’ access to aircraft and even to certain airports. The TSA should withdraw the directive and initiate the appropriate rulemaking process for a change of that scope, they said.
“We have turned to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, because this security directive could have a far-reaching impact on pilots,” Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president for government affairs, explained. “Because the TSA never consulted the people who know the most about general aviation, it developed a set of requirements that ignore the realities of general aviation flying and the need for access at airports”
Effective June 1, SD-08F requires pilots to undergo a security threat assessment and receive a security badge to have unescorted access to air carrier airports. The GA letter points out that the badge requirements could impose an overwhelming administrative burden on GA operations, because GA flights often occur when airport staff are unavailable to act as escorts. Therefore, GA pilots would have to apply for and receive identification media from every regulated airport they may ever need to visit-not just the one where they are based.
“Some airport operators may, in an attempt to avoid the administrative burden, choose to limit GA access to their airports, which could put the airport operator in violation of federal grant assurances that require airports receiving federal funds to be open to the public,” the letter stated.
Because the security directive is classified as “sensitive security information,” many of its requirements are unexplained mandates. The directive never underwent a public comment period, when industry experts, affected parties, and concerned citizens could have alerted the TSA of the measure’s potential consequences.
“Many of the problems with the regulatory changes in SD-08F could have been avoided had the TSA chosen to implement them using the federal rulemaking process allowing those most familiar with the intricacies of general aviation to provide their comments,” the letter says.
AOPA has been urging the TSA to accept industry input since the directive was released in December of last year. In response, the TSA earlier this year postponed the SD-08F compliance deadline to June 1 and said that it would address industry concerns. Yet, as more information about the directive becomes public, concerns mount about the directive’s potential effect on GA. With the deadline approaching, GA pilots and aircraft owners are being urged to call their legislators to express opposition to the measures.