New Standards for General Aviation Security

Jan 1, 2004 12:00 PM

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A coalition of general aviation associations established as a working group of the Transportation Security Administration's Aviation Security Advisory Committee has delivered a series of recommendations for enhancing security at general aviation airports, including tighter identification of passengers flying on private planes, closer monitoring of student pilots, and improving airport surveillance.

“Since Sept. 11, general aviation has worked closely with TSA to voluntarily enhance security at facilities across the country,” says Stephen McHale, TSA deputy administrator.

TSA will build on these recommendations to establish formal guidelines that general aviation airports can follow to further strengthen security. By early next year, TSA will issue “best practice” guidelines for security at more than 18,000 landing facilities nationwide that serve general aviation.

The working group also recommended multiple locking systems to keep unauthorized persons from gaining access to aircraft; fencing, locks, lighting and other steps to control access to aircraft ramps, parking, hangar and fuel storage areas. Developing communications procedures for law enforcement officers and airport users to follow in emergencies — particularly during periods of heightened security — was also a priority.

Many of the airports, which serve more than 275,000 general aviation aircraft, already have implemented at least some of the working group's recommendations.

The TSA has already taken steps to guard against unauthorized use of flight school or rental aircraft, required background checks for foreign pilots seeking a U.S. pilot certificate, and is working with the Department of Justice to track suspicious aircraft purchases. It has also implemented the “twelve-five rule,” which requires that operators using aircraft with a maximum certificated take-off weight of 12,500 pounds or more carry out a security program.

Additionally, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has developed a nationwide Airport Watch program that includes a TSA-sponsored hotline for reporting suspicious activity.

Some airports are also experimenting with new technologies in security monitoring, surveillance and access control technologies, including WiFi and sophisticated target acquisition software programs.

In other news, eight airports (T.F Green State Airport, R.I.; Newark International Airport; Helena Regional Airport, Mont.; Boston Logan International Airport; Pittsburgh International Airport; Chicago Midway Airport; Denver International Airport; and Key West International Airport, Fla.) have been awarded $7.8 million in grants for terminal security enhancements, including video surveillance for detection of intruders to the deployment of physical gates.

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