Proposed BizAv TSA Regulation Changes Met with Backlash

Some of the latest news from Washington is about recently revised security guidelines for private aircraft weighing more than 12,500 lbs (roughly the size of a Beechcraft King Air 250 turboprop): The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has proposed requiring all aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight above 12,500 pounds adopt a large aircraft security program based on the current protocols that apply to operators providing scheduled or charter services.

The reasons beyond the TSA proposed changes include the fact that even a plane of smaller weight could do a lot of damage if hijacked — especially if packed with explosives or other dangerous materials. According to Michal Morgan, the TSA head of general aviation security, “It’s the evolution of security into a new operating environment.”

The proposal is set to take effect next year and be phased in over the two following years with 85% of the costs being paid by jet owners. The changes are expected to affect approximately 15,000 corporate jets and 315 small airports across the country.

As may have been expected, the jet-owning community has responded with some backlash. When the TSA published Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports in 2004, the general aviation trade associations willingly adapted to many of the recommendations and developed security programs for their members. Many private jet owners have spoken out, stating that not only does the TSA not understand their industry (with restrictions on carry-on items like golf clubs and tools) but also that they fail to recognize the self-policing efforts (including strict recordkeeping) already implemented.

In response to the backlash, the TSA has restarted the Aviation Security Advisory Committee it inherited from the FAA and members will vet policy changes. Indications are that the community can expect a decision soon.

In the meantime, it is important to pay close attention to security mandates, including researching your destination carefully, ensuring that passengers and crew have emergency numbers to call and that they check in at home regularly, and ensuring that security regulations regarding international travel are strictly adhered to.

Whether security regulations end up being adjusted or not, the aviation industry has the opportunity right now to demonstrate excellent security through our current systems.

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