TSA's Dangerous New Proposal

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As we've reported elsewhere on AVweb, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has proposed a rule to expand airline-style security measures to private (i.e. Part 91) operations of aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. The new proposal was formally released October 30, 2008. That date also started a 60-day period during which the TSA is accepting comments from the public on the usefulness and appropriateness of its proposal.

If finalized, just some of the provisions in the proposed rule would require operators to assign a security director to oversee flight operations, obtain TSA approval for a security program addressing every operation of the aircraft, submit fingerprints of all flight-crew members, seek government approval of each passenger for each flight, and pay for a third party to audit compliance with the new rules, with results sent to the agency. A copy of the full, 67-page proposal is available in PDF format here.

At this writing, general aviation's alphabet soup is expressing a combination of disbelief and opposition to the proposal. Since it is so large and far-reaching, the first order of business must be to obtain additional time for members of the public—you and me—to consider and respond to the request for comments. The 60-day comment period is woefully inadequate. Already, AOPA and NBAA have signed a joint letter formally request an extension, to 120 days. As the letter stated, "with over 15,000 aircraft, 10,000 operators and 300 airports impacted," it's impossible to accurately determine the proposal's impact.

Meanwhile, EAA Vice President of Industry and Regulatory Affairs Earl Lawrence correctly noted the proposal raises "serious questions in the areas of interstate commerce, government authority, civil liberties, and Constitutional rights. Rulemaking proposals that present the potential for such dramatic consequences require more than a mere 60 days for the public to study and comment on them."

Even if you don't operate an aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, this proposal likely will impact you. That's because the TSA also proposes to require airports served by large aircraft to adopt security programs. This could mean any facility capable of handling a large turboprop or Cessna Citation II must formally participate in a TSA security program. Good luck getting to your hangar at Podunk Regional for a pre-dawn departure. Unless the comment period is extended, it will expire on December 29, 2008. Now's a good time to add your voice to the growing opposition. Go to www.regulations.gov, use the docket number, TSA–2008–0021, and formally request a comment period extension of at least another 60 days. While you're there, tell the TSA about your preliminary thoughts regarding its proposal. But be polite. You really need to do this. Right now.

This post to the AVweb Insider blog also will appear in the December 2008 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

Comments (34)

If this proposal is adopted and put into effect, the cost to general aviation will be astronomical. I believe it will drive many operations to sell their aircraft. Also if the TSA can institute these rules, how long will it be before all the rest of us will need to be fingerprinted to fly our small private aircraft, or even to drive a car or a truck. It seems that civil liberties are taken away by the TSA, with no input from citizens or their representives. Duane Griffith

Posted by: Duane Griffith | November 4, 2008 8:13 PM    Report this comment

Please consider a longer comment period in order to properly respond to this proposed TSA legislation for non commercial operations of aircraft above 12,500 lbs.

Additionally, it seems totally inappropriate for the need to check a no fly list or have additional administration requirements for a aircraft owner, family, friends, or employees.

I understand the issue with charter or commercial operations where passengers are unknown.

Posted by: Tom Helm | November 5, 2008 7:30 AM    Report this comment

Yes, as Jeb Burnside and Duane Griffith suggest, this is but a first step by Big Brother.

TSA is a creation of Homeland Security, and Homeland Security came to us by virtue of the events of 11 September.

The events of 11 September were staged, and the Official Conspiracy Theory is a lie. Therefore, this attack upon constitutional rights is based upon a lie. The public has been deceived, and GA is going to pay the price.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 5, 2008 9:58 AM    Report this comment

Please consider extending the public comment period to at least 60 days. More appropriately, such far reaching proposals in government authority over its citizens should be a legislative matter.
To enact such debilitating measures on our operations goes against common sense. Millions of taxpayer dollars would be required to bog us down in additional government bureaucratic expense, time and redtape. For what? To require me to do background checks on the bosses children? His employees? Come on. Let's have some common sense about this!

Doug Downer - Chief Pilot

Posted by: Doug Downer | November 5, 2008 11:46 AM    Report this comment

MBA training is an aggresive process of the aquisition of power and resourses. It seems only natural for the TSA to attempt to gain control of everything it can. The "suits" have little to do other than to find ways to expand the "empire". Now they are faced with having to prove their worth to a new group of bosses having an agenda of cost and size reduction. Jobs are at stake! It is no wonder they would like to resolve this issue before January. If the TSA can "prove" its worth and size to the new administration we will see even more restrictions and regulations. We must try every avenue to reduce the explosion in size and restrictions of the present adminisration. We REALLY need effective security at our ports and borders. We must concetrate efforts to these areas first. If Homeland Security is busy with these things, they may leave us alone for a while. The idea of congressional oversight is terrific. However, Congress of late hates it. We must keep reminding the powers to be that unresticted movement is the goal. The present mood of massive restrictions will ultimately halt then kill the very transportation system the TSA thinks they are saving. To Mr. Downer, sadly common sense has never been seen on a job description.

Posted by: Larry Fries | November 5, 2008 4:52 PM    Report this comment

What comments from industry or users could possibly influence the TSA to change its proposals? The TSA has nothing to gain by relaxing security measures, and everything to lose (the TSA would be blamed for any terrorist act or alleged planned act which made use of general aviation).

The basic issue is that the TSA can force the adoption of these procedures at no cost to itself (I mean, no additional cost that won’t be covered by an expansion of its budget). The TSA has no interest in the cost/benefit tradeoff for general aviation of these security measures; so even thought they’re pointless by any meaningful measure (we haven’t had them for the last 7 years, have we?), they will come into force.

Vote for politicians who advocate a rational response to terrorism, and hold your elected representatives responsible for the idiocy undertaken by the TSA. Probably the only way that these proposals can be watered down is if the TSA finds it politically unacceptable (i.e. unacceptable in Washington realpolitik) to implement them.

...And it does none of us any good at all when conspiracy nuts attach themselves to this debate (viz Richard Sinnott's comments).

Posted by: Ceri Reid | November 6, 2008 7:41 AM    Report this comment

Beware the law of unitended consequenses!!! Here is another Big Government mandate to protect us from....what?

At present, corporate and charter operators generally know very well who is in the aircraft in question and why they are there. This IS the best security there is...knowing all the players!

If something appears amiss, an FBO or corporate flight department can easily call 911 for the needed backup.

If GA is sealed off from the general public, where will our aspiring pilots be? Outside the concertina wire, trying to figure out what an airplane is!!!

Maybe they should put similar restrictions on legislators weighing 250 lbs or greater; at least that would benefit our country!

Posted by: david hawkinson | November 6, 2008 8:30 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for alerting us to this. This is one of the first NPRMs that I have heard about early enough to put my $.02 worth in.

I can't believe (well actually I can) that the TSA is trying yet again to regulate away our rights by making it even more difficult to use our planes.

The paranoid part of me says the short comment period is another ploy from the Bush administration to stomp out GA (which it seems to have been trying to do since 2001).

Posted by: Mark Hammack | November 6, 2008 8:47 AM    Report this comment

Ceri Reid

Perhaps you could explain to me GA's role in the events of 11 September?

Perhaps you could offer ANY piece of evidence supporting the official story? Not a government press release mind you, but some evidence?

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 6, 2008 9:48 AM    Report this comment

Richard: GA had no role in 9/11, nor did I say or imply that it had.

I think there's nothing I could say, and no evidence I could possibly provide that would actually persuade you that 9/11 wasn't orchestrated by the government. So I'm not even going to try.

Perhaps you should ask yourself how your belief in a 9/11 conspiracy which is not susceptible to change through rational argument or evidence differs from a religion?

I won't be replying to any further comments on this.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | November 6, 2008 10:29 AM    Report this comment

GA's role in 9/11? It was a savy CFI that FIRST tried to alert the FBI of suspicious "students" from the Mid-east! The Government's role since that time has been to EXPAND to the breaking point. The history book's slant on the power of one tall skinny son of a rich Arab engineer to change the world will be a topic for the next millennium!

Posted by: Larry Fries | November 6, 2008 11:21 AM    Report this comment

I am absolutely horrified at the implications of this onorous prpposal. The HSA will impose a major abalation of our civil rights and, in essense, do little or no good in preventing what they most fear. I have been flying for more than 60 years and the erosion on our freedom to travel as Americans has been more greatly curtailed since 9/11 than in all the years I had previously flown. Obviously the proposal was drafted by a bureaucrat with absolutely NO understanding of aviation or the industry.

Posted by: RICHARD KOMM | November 6, 2008 11:57 AM    Report this comment

This is one step closer to the doctrine that we have fought against for the past 40+ years - when the Berlin wall came down did it let freedom in - or communism out!
As for permission “from the government” to fly-or access an airport, this bill needs to be eliminated now. ( Here is a prime site for a spending cut-back, the government needs to leave aviation alone !). This will KILL the small aviation maintenance business, NO access = No business.

TSA have already effectively KILLED aerial advertising, A $100,000 per annum company does not exist today only because of the TSA – be warned. Your freedom is at stake!

Posted by: Rob Regan | November 6, 2008 12:31 PM    Report this comment

Of folks this is nothing more than a means by which 121 operators, to read the airlines, will use to level the playing field. If they use the TSA to harrass 91 and 135 corporate operators, who fly the equipment in question, then they may cause a few of them to fold. If that happens the lucrative business travelers may be forced to come back. Most 135 flights already have fingerprinted crews, background checks, and use the no fly lists to exclude "bad people". Part 91 crews know all their people, but we want to subject them to no fly lists each time we fly them? And audits and added costs, who is kidding who.

The biggest GA aircraft like the Global or the G550 wouldn't make a dent like a airliner would. Count all the airliners and all the really big GA aircraft and see where the "beef" is. Why did terrorist target heavies? There have been no credible threats of using GA aircraft to attack targets in this country. Think they'd get much of a bang out of a King Air 350?

Here's a think outside the box proposal. Why don't they extend the Federal Flight Deck provision to people who fly corporate GA? I suspect not know who might be armed on what airplane or when is a greater deterrent than anything the TSA might be able to whip up. My friends from Texas tell me that's why there is so little "road rage" in the Lone Star state.

TSA, FAA are no friends of GA. Common sense is not that common.

Posted by: Richard Teves | November 6, 2008 3:57 PM    Report this comment

Yes, as Rob Regan has pointed out, this is anti-american as there ever was.

What they propose for GA is no different than frisking grandmothers in the airline terminal.

It is pure unadulterated hogwash.


I understand completely why there will be no further responses from you. Been there done that have the T shirt.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 6, 2008 8:16 PM    Report this comment

Hopefully the nuts will have a new administrator soon, but lest they be already too entrenched, let's all write letters DIRECT to TSA and the new administration. (Notice that the deadline for public response is PRIOR to the entrance of the new administration who will have actual/direct control of those at TSA.) We MUST INSIST upon an extension of the commentary period to at least March 15.

Ceri Reid: Thank you for your excellent input. Unfortunately some folks, like the TSA, simply won't be persuaded as to how nutty they truly are.

Posted by: George Horn | November 10, 2008 6:56 AM    Report this comment

And I suppose that means that neither Ceri nor George would care to offer any measure of evidence or proof upholding the Official Conspiracy Theory?

Accusations of "nuttiness" are juvenile and counterproductive to rational public dialogue.

I challenge anybody to provide evidence supporting the official version of things.

In the meantime, from FDR analysis to building collapse analysis, the evidence against the official story is overwhelming.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 10, 2008 7:37 AM    Report this comment

I believe that Ceri Reid's proposal and tactics are the only way to go. It is important that we work with politicians on a local level to make them understand the impact that the rules passed down by TSA or any other entity are truly necessary and justify the expense and loss of freedom that they propose. No matter how this is viewed, the impact that this particular measure will have will be dramatic and will seriously curtail the development of new transportation methods and GA in general.

Posted by: Michael Penman | November 10, 2008 8:23 AM    Report this comment

As our state and local governments are all trying to lure new businesses, the TSA seems to want to constrain them. Please talk with, mail, and email state officials to let them know of the problem this will cause to local business growth.
State politicians, once they're aware of the devastating impact this will have on domestic business, should join with us in petitioning Congress.

Congress will have its hands full for the next few months, and what it doesn't want on its hands is the label that it killed what was left of the American economy.

Complaining to a bureaucracy, or even trying to use logic and economic arguments against one, is structurally futile. Use your channels to your state politicians. When governors and governors-elect see what this could do to their states, they'll help. They're out best hope -- and don't forget to formally lodge your own personal, civil complaint, based not only on your personal interests (which need to be included -- be "Joe the Plumber"), but also casting light on the ultimate effect such rules will have on the economy. [Non-flying legislators don't understand, and thus don't care about our hobbies and industry. They do care about "the economy."]

Posted by: Tim Kern | November 10, 2008 8:56 AM    Report this comment

You stated, “TSA also proposes to require airports served by large aircraft to adopt security programs.” My question is – how many airports that are capable of handling 12,500 lbs or greater will be shut down? For instance, Delta Utah is a great place to refuel, but the airport is in the middle of nowhere. Do you think whoever is responsible for the airport is going to cut loose the assets to bring it up to the standards required for the proposed security measures? I think they will choose to shut it down and turn it into farmland.

It is my opinion there is a whole lot more at stack than loss of freedoms, and inconvenience. It will do more to kill GA aviation than user fees ever could.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | November 10, 2008 11:03 AM    Report this comment

This is EXACTLY what the terrorists had in mind - take away our freedom. Just like our own airplanes they used against us, they are using our own government against us. The government is playing directly into their hands.

Posted by: WILLIAM C. JONES | November 10, 2008 12:21 PM    Report this comment

The sad truth is that domestic enemies of the US Constitution and this country are far more virulent and successful than foreign enemies.

The damage done to GA pales in comparison to the damage done to our legal principles and founding document by illegitimate legislation such as the USA Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act.

By many in the non-aviation community, we aviators are seen as a type of elite, and from them we will not get much sympathy.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 10, 2008 12:53 PM    Report this comment

Fellow aviators, this may be one of those times we need to get together and decide, as a total GA community, to simply disobey. If no-one complies what will the gov do? The TSA is already a complete violation of our 5th, 4th and 2nd amendment rights. It is our national duty to disobey any government action that violates our constitutional rights. That means if you are a citizen of this country THIS IS YOUR DUTY. Personally I didn't serve in the USMC infantry only to watch the heritage of my nation destroyed by overzealous government regulation. *IF* it passes into law, how can we oppose this in a nonviolent, politically effective and passive manner?

Posted by: a b | November 10, 2008 12:54 PM    Report this comment

A good question AB, and I don't really know the answer.

I think one of the first things needed must be a formal and public acknowledgement by all parties including the government that GA had absolutely nothing to do with the events of 11 September.

By that, it is irrational and unjust to penalize us. Grandmothers in wheelchairs had nothing to do with it either, yet they have been harassed ever since. A precedent has been set.

It is time for everybody to acknowledge that the Emperor Has No Clothes.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 10, 2008 1:58 PM    Report this comment

I hope the respondents on this forum are not representative of the entire GA community. Do you really believe your arguments have any weight when you mention 9/11 conspiracies, frisking grandmothers, disobeying lawful regulations, complicity by 121 operators, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Why not mentione UFO's and Atlantis while you're at it? In addition to a new administration, you have your own senators and representatives --- USE THEM! Flood their offices with legitimate complaints, not the drivel posted here. Democratic legislators in particular have been elected with "Change" as their motto, so hold their feet to the fire on that promise. But please, please, please ... don't bombard them with dogma. There is no quicker way to be ignored in Washington. Present facts and statistics, the language of the bureaucrats, to prove why this proposal would hurt GA. If you can't do that, then maybe this proposal SHOULD be enacted.

Posted by: Stuart Ball | November 10, 2008 2:08 PM    Report this comment


I agree with your anti-conspiracy line as well as the use of local reps, which I've contacted, but please remember segregation ended because of civil disobedience. So did British rule in India. So did the Berlin wall. We should keep this option open just like so many other minority groups in our culture do.

We could statistically prove there is no societal advantage in taking care of the sick or dying. Humanity would say otherwise. So your point on proving it with stats or allowing the law to pass doesn't take the whole situation into account. Furthermore Pols regularly IGNORE stats. The language of Washington is rhetoric and spin.
Politicians historically do whatever it takes to ensure job security. We need to figure out how we can position ourselves to the public as a harmless minority being picked on by big business and big government....which in a way is exactly whats going on :-)

Posted by: a b | November 10, 2008 2:40 PM    Report this comment

Thank you Stuart. We do indeed have the government we deserve.

Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 10, 2008 8:34 PM    Report this comment

First, no one can serve two masters. Dealing with the FAA is difficult enough without having to try and talk logic to unqualified figureheads at the TSA. I'm tired of being diplomatic about these matters. Let's call it what it is - a political grandstand to make people outside of aviation feel safer than they really are. The Bush administration used fear to get their way for eight years. To me, this is a carry over from that tactic. We have enough fiscal problems facing our country to overcome without squandering further tax dollars on the TSA.

Posted by: Jud Phillips | November 12, 2008 8:48 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Richard Sinnott | November 12, 2008 8:54 AM    Report this comment

Mary Helen: Are you aware that your petition drive window also signs people up to get all sorts of other emails from other groups (opt-out, not opt-in), and it also automatically urges you to sign additional petitions?

Posted by: Tim Kern | November 12, 2008 9:19 AM    Report this comment

Tim: Thank you for taking the time to go to the Care2 site and sign the petition. Yes, Care2 will also give you the OPTION to sign other petitions - you can choose not to sign. Care2 does NOT spread your e-mail or other info without your permission. I don’t even get your e-mail or info. The petition service that Care2 offers is completely free, as are the many other activities that it offers, so I can’t complain if they advertise a little. BTW, I apologize to all for the typos in my prior post – cut and paste in haste is not a good look (and I am dyslexic as well).

Posted by: Mary Helen Taft | November 12, 2008 10:04 AM    Report this comment

I agree with Jud. Hopefully, regardless of other political issues, things in the "fake security" world will change in the next term.

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