During a May 27 conference call with aviation industry organizations, the Transportation Security Administration reaffirmed the June 1 deadline for final implementation of its controversial Security Directive 1542-04-08F, commonly referred to simply as 8F, which would require background checks and photographic identification for any pilot needing unescorted access to airports serving commercial airlines.
The general aviation alphabet groups have been urging the TSA to withdraw or substantially modify the directive but, although TSA delayed the deadline by several months, there has been no substantive rewriting of the policy or change in its direction. The Experimental Aircraft Association, in particular, has opposed 8F vehemently since its release late last year, drawing attention to its profound operational impact on general aviation activities at airports with any level of commercial air carrier service. EAA is continuing to urge withdrawal or modification, it stated on May 28.
Under the TSA mandate, a separate badge would be required for each airport where unescorted access is required. In addition, pilots not holding a badge for a particular airport would need to be escorted to and from their aircraft by approved ground personnel.
The EAA has expressed grave concern for the impact 8F will have on pilots with multiple bases of operations; after-hours transient aircraft operations; self-fueling operations; and other normal airport activities. Implementation is at the discretion of each airport, resulting in a patchwork of differing requirements and remedial procedures. TSA has tried to assure the general aviation community that transient operations will not be impacted by the new procedures, but EAA said it has ample evidence that that’s not the case.
“Since the initial release of 8F, EAA has received numerous calls and e-mails from members who have experienced restrictions and outright refusal to access their aircraft when away from their home airports,” said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president for government relations. “We have heard horror stories of airport personnel erroneously refusing access, lack of an available escort, and of pilots having to scale airport fences or otherwise circumvent supposed security measures just to gain access to their personal aircraft. If pilots and aircraft owners aren’t supposed to be on general aviation ramps, we don’t know who is.
“EAA has repeatedly called for a common sense approach to TSA’s stated need for increased security at general aviation airports with commercial operations,” Macnair continued. “If TSA insists on increasing the cost and complexity of access to general aviation airports for authorized users then the agency must recognize that pilots need unrestricted access to any general aviation airport in the country. However, they cannot possibly obtain IDs for every airport they might visit, nor can they be aware of each airport’s specific security procedures, requirements and exceptions that might govern transient operations.”
Aviation organizations also have been raising awareness of 8F and its impact on general aviation operations with the Federal Aviation Administration, pointing out the serious implications the directive raises for unrestricted access to federally funded public use airports. TSA’s resistance to unescorted access to general aviation airports appears to be a violation of the federal grant assurances that govern funding of airports. The FAA has agreed with that view and added that the TSA directive may be in conflict with the Air Commerce Act. High-level discussions are just beginning between FAA and TSA on the matter.
According to TSA staff, the agency is in the process of coordinating a revision to the security directive, saying that some general aviation concerns will be addressed in the forthcoming revision. No timetable has been given for the release of revisions, and there is little evidence that GA’s core objections and concerns are being addressed.
EAA is encouraging anyone who has had first hand adverse experiences as a result of 8F to write to their Representative and Senators to explain the issues and share the personal experiences.
For information: www.eaa.org/news/2009/2009-05-28_deadline.asp