The Disaster That Is LASP

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By now, most pilots have heard of the events surrounding John and Martha King's run-in with the aviation security system. There is no reason to fault the police officers that responded with drawn weapons. They reacted the way they are trained. There is no reason to believe that the police officers, most likely non-aviators, knew who John and Martha King were or what they looked like. The typical airplane thief has no standard appearance.

But this situation signifies a great threat to our freedoms as pilots in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. government as a whole have declared us the enemy. We can see this in several notices of proposed rulemaking and regulatory changes made in the past two years: LASP (Large Aircraft Security Program), SD-8G, Operation Playbook and others. I know that some of you aren't even aware of what's coming.

LASP was first published for comment in October of 2008. Its effects would have been a disaster. Most stopped reading at "Large Aircraft" because you don't fly large aircraft as defined by the FARs. Yet the requirements of this proposed regulation are onerous. Among them are: Hire a Director of Security, screen all passengers (to include family), screen all their luggage against the 80,000 items prohibited from a commercial airliner, check all passengers (to include family) against the No-Fly Lists. That's every single pilot out there, aircraft owner or not.

For example, your local airport would no longer be a place to hang out. Fences would have to go up. Flight lines would have to be closed. Most important, if a large aircraft, say a DC-3 or a Hawker, showed up on the ramp, the airport would be closed unless it had SIDA (Security Identification Area) capability. SIDA badges are those worn at airports served by Part 121 carriers to signify the wear has passed a background check and is allowed in certain areas past the security check point. This is because the TSA felt there was a weapon of mass destruction on the ramp and access to it must be denied. So, the ramp will be closed until the WMD leaves, whenever that is.

SD-8G was a badging initiative by the TSA to bring those SIDA badges to some airports, but the list published by the TSA was wrong, containing some airports not under SD-8G and leaving out some that were under SD-8G. Currently the list is classified, so if you fly out to a new destination for the $100 hamburger, you may find yourself at an airport where you are not allowed to leave your airplane without escort. Of course, you can't return to your aircraft without escort either. Let's hope the line boys aren't too busy when you want to leave.

Operation Playbook was another TSA initiative that played out in a few airports for a short time where badged hangar customers--those who had already met the security requirements of the field where they kept their aircraft--were intercepted at their hangar. Their cars were searched and they were patted down. In one incident, a retired military officer was threatened with arrest because the TSA believed he had contraband in his car.

The public comment period for LASP produced between 7000 and 10,000 comments, none of which were positive. AOPA, EAA, NBAA and the other alphabet groups went to the Hill and spoke, Congress got involved, the Congressional GA Caucus was formed. The TSA said "we listened" and are now producing a "kinder and gentler" LASP II which is due out in a month or so, claiming they will incorporate all the complaints into a new and improved document. There is nothing preventing a change from encompassing all aviation in this country the moment the NPRM goes into effect. There is no recourse once this happens.

They assure us there will be no problems; only the bad guys get caught. Yet, the King's experience shows how a nine-year-old database was horribly misused. This database is one of the same ones that will be used in the other programs I mentioned.

We also see how two Yemen citizens from a country where it's apparently normal to duct tape your cellphone to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, were allowed to fly on a commercial airliner and were released because duct taping a cellphone to a Pepto-Bismol bottle isn't against the law. Released by the same folks who will bring you LASP. Yet two aviation icons, who have helped hundreds of thousands of pilots get through their writtens, who were flying a Cessna 172 with a nine-year-old N-number belonging to a stolen 150, kissed concrete because our security system works, according to Secretary Napolitano.

LASP, I or II, SD-8G and so on are not workable solutions. Period. The TSA/DHS has three published internal reports that state General Aviation is not a threat to national security. They are mere restrictions to your freedom of flight for no apparent reason. When LASP II comes out, probably sometime around the end of October, don't stop reading at Large Aircraft, call your senator or representative now, before elections, and tell them what you think and how you'll vote. Call AOPA, EAA, et al, and tell them not to seek compromise and declare victory.

You can learn more about the TSA and its attempts to curtail your freedom at

Don't forget to speak out.

John Hyle is a Captain for a U.S. Part 121 carrier, a long time CFI, warbird owner and a former USAF fighter pilot who started in GA.

Comments (24)

It is the responsibility of police to KNOW aircraft if they are prepared to put bullets into them. They are the "bad guys" since they acted foolishly and irresponsibly at an airport. Putting up fences and treating citizens as the enemy is not what we hire these people for.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 13, 2010 9:26 AM    Report this comment

And where is the Tea Party in all this? LASP appears to be their perfect issue. Big Government is bullying solid citizens who are merely enjoying their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to move about the country.

Posted by: Bill Leavens | September 13, 2010 9:42 AM    Report this comment

There are about half a million pilots in the USA, most people lump all of us in the "GM CEO, take my jet to Congress and tell them how broke I am" group, even though we're not.

The Tea Party has more things to worry about, so does O'Reily, Beck, et al.

We need to do this on our own. Right now, the biggest hurdle is keeping everybody informed. I don't have all the answers, but I can ask some good questions.

John Hyle

Posted by: John Hyle | September 13, 2010 10:16 AM    Report this comment

If you want to slow this LASP-II juggernaught down start a movement to get EVERY pilot and aircraft owner to post their objections to the NPRM in writing by snail-mail. The TSA is required to open every single one and log the contents. If we use email, however attractive that is, we will make it too easy for them. Apparently 7000 negative comments were not enough. With a 100,000 envelopes for them to open we can buy time to object through other channels with comment extension periods too.

And while we are in the letter writing mood, write the alphabet groups and tell them to play hard-ball. The time is over for mealy-mouthed play-nice chit-chats with the security agencies that are kept secret from the paid-up memberships of AOPA, EAA and the like.

After we are through with that, lets have a declared day/week of no GA activity. None. No avgas sold, no training, no deliveries, etc, etc. A few business people calling their senators crying about pilots who won't fly can't hurt. Nah, never happen...

Posted by: David MacRae | September 13, 2010 11:16 AM    Report this comment

"The time is over for mealy-mouthed play-nice chit-chats with the security agencies that are kept secret from the paid-up memberships of AOPA, EAA and the like." Who are you kidding? AOPA especially and other alphabets jumped on GA-SECURE to show that they can be as security paranoid as TSA thus admitting they thought GA was a terrorist security threat. Call an 800 number anonymously and report "suspicious" activity or that guy you don't like in the next hangar over. Our aviation alphabets aren't going to be part of the solution, they are already part of the problem. It is pretty clear to me that individual pilots are going to have to lead, and as usual the alphabets might follow someday.

Posted by: Dean Billing | September 13, 2010 11:38 AM    Report this comment

John, great article!

Just a reminder...the original LASP proposal contained two other proposals in addition to the LASP. The one that will affect all pilots is the Airport Operators Security Program. The AOSP proposed regulated security programs for operators of reliever and designated general aviation airports. So even if you keep your airplane at a small strip somewhere in rural America, you would be under TSA security regulations when you go gas up at one of those airports.

So when the public comment period for Son of LASP opens in the next month or two, please's more than just "Large" aircraft.

Posted by: David Hook | September 13, 2010 12:24 PM    Report this comment

One word of advice about letters.

Since the anthrax threat, all mail is irradiated to prevent any bio-threat. However, this takes time, lots of time and, guess what, they lose some of it.

For contact with Senators and Congressmen, I've been told by several (on our side, like Sam Graves (R-MO), that fax or a phone call works.

Same of all the aviation subcommittees and don't forget Sec. LaHood since he rolled in at Oshkosk with his 55,000 employees that are "pro-aviation".

Time to make them all put up or shut up.

Thanks for the support.

John Hyle

Posted by: John Hyle | September 13, 2010 12:34 PM    Report this comment

It isn't just the TSA or the EPA or the FAA. It is the federal government making laws and rules under the guise of securing our safety, security, or for our own "well being" that is eroding our freedom. Most of the legislators or regulators probably couldn't score 350 on an SAT but are convinced that that they know better than the rest of the population what is "good for us" and how our money should be spent. It is becoming more and more apparent to more and more people that we are over governed. History teaches that oppression is the seed of revolution. Hopefully if ours comes, it will be an electoral one. Study history just a little: this country was founded because of "over government". Need I say more.

Posted by: JACK WILLIAMS | September 13, 2010 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Ronald Reagan once said, "government is not the solution to the problem. Government IS the problem."
Start by supporting congressional term limits. Throw ALL the bums, cockroaches and snakes out! Protect our flying liberty and freedom from massive government and TSA/DHS intrusion!

Posted by: Charles Perry | September 14, 2010 7:31 AM    Report this comment

"Throw ALL the bums, cockroaches and snakes out!"

The idiots making and enforcing these rules are not elected. Once these agencies are created they basically have as much (if not more) power than Congress. You can vote all you want to but TSA/DHS and EPIC and DEA are not going away.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 14, 2010 9:08 AM    Report this comment

To a certain extent, Mark is right. LASP wasn't made, dreamed up, written down by an elected official.

However, the purpose of this blog wasn't to rag on the government, not that they don't need it. It was to inform you about something that's coming.

Think about what I said; 7,000 to 10,000 comments got this withdrawn for a rewrite. There's about half a million pilots out there; think what 500,000 comments could do, especially if they aren't the "compromise and declare victory" of the alphabet groups?

Posted by: John Hyle | September 14, 2010 10:06 AM    Report this comment

Rewrites wont mean much, a shorter fence? Only a drivers license instead of a TSA badge to present to armed guards at the airport? This stuff is being written by bureaucrats in offices because they are paid to do "something" with their time. Point being is if they had any grasp of what they are doing then massive pressure would not be needed...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 14, 2010 11:11 AM    Report this comment

You are absolutely right Mark, they have no clue, don't want a clue and are only interested in being in charge, this must stop. We are on the same sheet of music.

That's why we support the Sam Graves vector of no compromise, a bad idea is a bad idea, period.

But when most GA pilot tell me that, 'that doesn't apply to me, I don't fly large aircraft...'; they are missing it greatly and have no idea what's about ot happen to them -- hence what we were trying to do with spread the word.

Posted by: John Hyle | September 14, 2010 12:59 PM    Report this comment

The revolution will not be televised ! * !

Posted by: dennis walach | September 15, 2010 6:53 AM    Report this comment

I disagree with the author. The police NEVER should have been there, and they WERE at fault. Period!
Only the FAA should be in control of any issues concerning aircraft. It is SO obvious the police were acting like gestapo and didn't have a clue about aircraft information. This NEVER would have happened if a knowlegeable FAA- mandated authority was overseeing stolen aircraft issues.

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | September 15, 2010 7:25 AM    Report this comment

The blame for what happened is 100% the fault of the Federal Government whose agency operates in the typical government bureaucratic inefficient manner. No heads will roll. No procedures will be changed. Something like this can happen again! The citizens who voted in the politicians who created this bureaucratic mess have only themselves to blame.

Posted by: Douglas Rodrigues | September 15, 2010 12:30 PM    Report this comment

EPIC was wrong and calling police to "make a traffic stop" was wrong. Just following orders does not make such a failure (of the complete system) somehow OK. Pulling loaded weapons on a civil aircraft and a flight crew is SERIOUS and should never be done because of a mere "suspicion" and by people with guns that are untrained in what they are approaching. The whole thing stinks from top to bottom.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 16, 2010 8:30 AM    Report this comment

Here is a better idea than stopping aviation for a day. How about everyone with a plane fly to Washington at the same time and invade the TSA headquarters. If the American Gestapo (TSA) isn't stopped, what will you do after they destroy aviation?

Posted by: Perry Barinowski | September 16, 2010 9:00 AM    Report this comment

I'm with you until you drag the Yemenis into it. They were released with no charges.

Do you want to live in a free country, or not?

Posted by: BYRON WARD | September 16, 2010 11:26 AM    Report this comment

8g is an insult to all pilots as we are not the enemy in fact we are the first line of defense and should be treated as such by the tsa gestapo. These double dipping retired law enforcement and military brown shirts need to be curbed as they are accountable to no one and have run amok with this sd 8g. There's no way tsa can provide the level of security that's already in place with every pilot at every airport.

Posted by: Michael Butterfield | September 16, 2010 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Couple of things to add:

The FAA doesn't have law enforcement capability, trust me I'm pretty close to several. If they want to take your certificate (because they ask you to surrend it and you didn't), they send a US Marshal not an ASI.

As for the Yemenis, yes I want to live in a free country. But, I can't "brandish" a firearm in public, how come I can brandish a phoney IED on an airplane? Scary Mary Schavio (former DOT IG) was arrested a Port Columbus years ago for about the same thing (Play Dough, a tape recorder and speaker wire), these guys didn't even get this level of involvement.

However, this is about a basic loss of freedom by a government agency that, to paraphrase an article from 2005, if 'it was a person, the court would have appointed a guardian by now'. Yet, these people get to violation the Administrative Procedures Act, circumvent public comment and scrutiny, etc., etc.

Consider this idiocy, from the original LASP.

If you are a hunter, and want to take your shotgun on your airplane to somewhere and hunt, you would have to carry it in the baggage compartment (having cleared it with the Director of Security you'd have to have). But if it didn't fit in the baggage compartment, you could carry it in the passenger compartment, in a locked, hardsided case. Guess where the key to said case is?

In your pocket.

It reads like an SNL script, you can't make this up.

Posted by: John Hyle | September 16, 2010 3:45 PM    Report this comment

A certain highly-respected high-time MEL pilot and statesman from Arizona, were he still alive, would surely have had an opinion about the TSA. It would probably be something like this, which he actually said:

"Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism." - Barry M. Goldwater

Barry, we miss you!

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | September 17, 2010 11:54 AM    Report this comment

Excellent article, John. The other comments are great too. This should serve as a reminder of the looming tyranny that is encroaching on our lives. We must not lose our freedom to those elitists in government. I pledge to fight this, tooth and nail. I live on an airpark and the freedom to fly when and where I choose means everything to me. I will not give it up without a fight.

GA Freedom Forever!

Posted by: Robert Murphy | September 17, 2010 8:54 PM    Report this comment

There seems to be an impression that LASP is a Large Aircraft ... Security Program. It never was. It actually is a Large ... Aircraft Security Program.

Posted by: Lucas James | September 17, 2010 9:24 PM    Report this comment

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