Think you can’t make a difference? You can — just ask the Transportation Security Administration.
When the TSA introduced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would have required airline-like security on all GA aircraft weighing over 12,500 lbs. (known as the Large Aircraft Security Program or LASP), it was flooded with comments — more than 7,000 to be exact.
“That is huge,” Doug Carr, vice president of safety, security and regulation for the National Business Aviation Association said at a forum on the future of GA security at the AOPA Aviation Summit. “Most NPRMs rarely get 100 comments. Getting 7,000 shows the effect the rules would have had on our community.”
The LASP was a “calling card to action,” he added.
“And they heard you,” said Brian Delauter, the new general manager of general aviation for the TSA.
Delauter, a pilot since the age of 16, had been flying for Northwest Airlines when his job — and so many others — disappeared after Sept. 11. He’s been with the TSA since “day one,” last serving as federal security director for Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport and seven other airports in Georgia and South Carolina. When he got his promotion to Washington, D.C., the LASP was the talk of the town.
He told those at the forum that the weight will “go up considerably” in the new rule. “The majority of people who operate large aircraft are already doing what we will ask them to do,” he added.
The next fight? Badges.
When the TSA issued a security directive in June requiring badges for GA pilots at commercial airports, it created a lot of problems, Delauter acknowledged. “It was improperly interpreted by the airports,” he said, noting that some thought that each airport needed its own badge, which would have been difficult for pilots who fly from one airport to another. The agency has pulled back on the badging requirements while trying to find a solution that works for all. Delauter’s thought — “why not one TSA-approved badge?”
One silver lining from the onerous security directive was a bill proposed by Sen. John Mica (R-Fla.) that would require TSA to follow established procedures when issuing notices for regulations and security directives, and would require the agency to conduct a formal rulemaking process for any emergency regulation or security directive in place for more than 180 days.
“When government goes over the line, that’s when Congress is effective,” Carr noted.
Another silver lining for GA: The TSA is in the process of starting a GA Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC), similar to a committee that was formed after Sept. 11 that included victims and family members of victims of the terrorist attacks, as well as industry groups.
“This is a big step,” Delauter said. “We won’t end run around you — that’s not the way to do business. As a federal security director, I got a lot more done when everyone was working together.”
Delauter acknowledges that the TSA has done a “poor job” of outreach and vows that will change under his watch. He plans to attend all the aviation-related shows, while reporting that the agency has hired a company that is tasked with going out into the community to bring concerns to TSA officials, as well as help in the education process about security.
Another effort is a security training program developed by Waukesha County Technical College in Wisconsin. Funded by the TSA, the eight-hour program is offered free to airports, according to Brian Dorow, associate dean.
The course “gives a security blueprint for your own airport,” he said, noting it also has developed a course for first responders.
That’s important, noted Craig Spence, vice president, regulatory affairs for AOPA. “I used to manage a GA facility and the first responders didn’t know the difference between a taxiway and a runway,” he said. “It becomes a safety issue.”
The course also is available online at GeneralAviationSecurity.com.