Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) unveiled its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for the regulation of general aviation (GA) aircraft in the U.S. While TSA and DHS have been talking about the need for increased security measures for GA for several years, the reality of the NPRM is hitting the GA community hard (and it should be). To date, TSA regulates but a small portion of the GA community – roughly 650 operators. TSA’s proposed NPRM would increase the regulated community to roughly 10,000 operators. A 65% increase in regulated parties is obviously significant.
While I’m not going to dissect all 260 pages of the NPRM here, let me assure you that several of the proposed measures represent significant operating difficulties for private and business aviation. The GA community might be more willing to implement these measures if TSA had credible evidence that domestic GA represents a threat. To date, this threat does not exist.
Last week I attended an airport security conference and heard an official with TSA’s Office of Intelligence state that there is no threat reporting or significant shifts in intelligence to suggest that GA is a threat at this time. The official went on to state “we don’t see the evidence” to suggest GA is being targeted. I found this admission startling.
As a former TSA official who had responsibility over GA security, I can tell you that the GA community is extremely security conscious and is a very willing partner in implementing sensible security measures. However, there must be a compelling reason (threat information, etc.), other than what TSA cites in their NPRM – “… terrorists may view general aviation aircraft as more vulnerable and thus attractive targets.”
Does GA represent a vulnerability today? The answer is yes. But that’s not the optimal question. The more appropriate question is – does GA represent a high threat target? Fortunately for us an official in TSA’s Office of Intelligence has recently answered this question. Why isn’t the agency listening to him?