Concerns about the security measures applied to US-based fractionally owned business aircraft flying into Europe appear to have been satisfied in the latest round of talks between the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and US Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The negotiations, described by ECAC as “extremely sensitive”, are likely to result in the US Federal Aviation Administration producing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in early 2006 that would invite comments on proposed security regulations.

ECAC has been pressing the US Federal Aviation Administration for the past two years to improve security by bringing it into the regulatory domain, ending the current practice whereby operators are responsible for their own security. In the USA fractional operators are treated as private aviation, while in Europe they come under the public rulemaking process.

The latest talks follow the recommendations of an international working group established by ECAC in 2004, which outlined a framework for European regulators considering formal regulations covering fractional-ownership programmes. In Europe, the only significant fractional ownership company is Portugal-based Netjets Europe. ECAC says the Netjets operation complies with the “highest security standards”.

On 22 November, the TSA wrote to ECAC outlining its plan to address security for US fractional flights operating into Europe. The letter noted that the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TSSP) provides a foundation for many of the possible security requirements and that the industry could easily adopt many of the measures (Flight International, 1-7 November 2005). TSSP covers operators of aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of over 5,670kg (12,500lb), which must comply with new security standards such as staff fingerprinting and criminal record checks.

ECAC and the TSA met on 7 December as part of a wider agenda on European-US regulatory issues, and had what are described as “very positive” talks on fractional security.

A source close to the discussions says: “We’re extremely happy to be near the end of the road on this,” adding that it hopes the NPRM addresses European concerns. “We’ll have to wait and see what’s in it”, said the source. “This will be a public document calling for comments on the security aspects of fractional operations.”

While only a few US fractional jet operators offer aircraft with transatlantic range, the number is likely to increase. Netjets Europe, which represents by far the largest proportion of operations, says it is generally happy with the ECAC initiative. “If we get a clear set of regulations it will be easier for every­body.”


Source: Flight International