TSA To Revise LASP For General Aviation By Fall <


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TSA To Revise LASP For General Aviation By Fall

By Daniel Guevarra

February 8, 2010 - Officials at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported they are in favor of a scaling back on a proposal that would include General Aviation into the “The Large Aircraft Security Program” (LASP). This is welcomed news for the General Aviation community. TSA stated that they would work on a revised plan and have it completed sometime this fall. The purpose of LASP is to reduce the threat of aircraft being used as missiles in a terrorist attack such as the events on 911.   

The current proposed plan would apply commercial air carrier security procedures to all General Aviation aircraft with take off weight of at least 12,500 pounds. Since a great number of General Aviation planes fall into this category, it would require all U.S. operators of aircraft exceeding 12,500 pounds maximum take-off weight to implement security programs that would be subject to compliance audits by TSA. The proposed regulation would also require operators to verify that passengers are not on the No Fly and or Selectee portions of the federal government's consolidated terrorist watch list. 


Vic Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, said the current proposal will not work because it fails to recognize the inherent differences between general aviation and commercial aviation. “I applaud TSA’s efforts to keep our nation safe from terrorists, especially after 911. They have a daunting task and I appreciate what they do. But treating general aviation like commercial aviation is an unneeded solution searching for a problem,” Bird said, adding that implementing a one-size-fits-all approach with GA airports will never work because no two general aviation airports are alike. 

In his letter to TSA, Bird emphasized that general aviation is a struggling industry today thanks in large part to the downturn in the economy, increased regulations and user fees. According to Bird, TSA’s proposal is “an unjustified knee-jerk reaction which will hurt a segment of aviation that does not deserve it, nor can afford it, and only adds to the decline in GA activity.”  He said to require redundant background checks, fingerprinting and additional security requirements for pilots was “unnecessary and impractical.” “The general aviation community is a very tight-knit group. Airplane owners know who is riding in their plane and where they are going,” Bird said. 


Critics of the proposed LASP fear that if the LASP is adopted in its current form, the federal government’s grip around general aviation would tighten even further and it would eventually extend the rule to even smaller aircraft such as the Cessna 172. The Cessna 172, which weighs about 2,500 pounds, is one of the most widely used GA aircraft in the U.S. Nearly every national aviation group has jumped into the debate and voiced their displeasure with the proposed LASP. The National Association of State Aviation Officials, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, are just a few examples of organizations that are vehemently opposed to the LASP. 

During the proposal’s comment period earlier this year, TSA was flooded with more than 4,800 comments from individuals and aviation entities that were concerned with TSA’s current proposal. And apparently those comments, including many that were voiced during public meetings held across the nation, have gotten TSA’s attention. TSA officials have agreed to meet with general aviation groups and representatives to discuss their individual concerns with the proposal and to possibly develop an alternative plan that would be acceptable to both the TSA and general aviation community. 

In an important first step to increase communication between TSA and the general aviation community, TSA has established a “stakeholder liaison position” within the agency dedicated solely to addressing concerns about recent security measures that might impact general aviation, including the proposed LASP. One of the biggest concerns raised by general aviation officials is who will end up footing the bill to implement and maintain the LASP, which TSA estimates could run nearly $1.4 billion over 10 years.  

“The brunt of the costs to operate the Large Aircraft Security Program will likely be passed on to aircraft owners or local airports,” Bird said. “If that happens, you will likely see fewer airplanes in the air, which will in turn have a negative, trickle-down economic impact throughout the entire general aviation community. For example, we’re talking about a loss of jobs in the aviation sector and a loss of tax revenue from aviation gas or jet fuel that many communities rely on to help supplement their budgets.” 

Bird went on to say in his letter that “TSA should be willing to work with aviation groups…and other aviation officials to negotiate a less costly and intrusive way to enhance GA security without creating such a burden.”  He noted that Oklahoma, as well as many other states, has already implemented many of TSA’s security rules and guidelines for general aviation airports. In addition, airport and city officials in Oklahoma have developed their own security plans detailing what steps they would take in the event of a security breach or other emergency at their airports. He said about half of the state’s public airports have already submitted their security plans to the Aeronautics Commission, even though they are not required to do so.

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