Two major US trade associations are calling on the Transportation Security Administration to extend the 60-day comment period on new security proposals for general aviation, published by the Federal Register late last month.

The planned regulation - dubbed the Large Aircraft Security Programme - will cover for the first time all Federal Aviation Regulation Part 91 private operations and operators of any aircraft over 5,675kg (12,500lb) maximum take-off weight.

The programme proposals include third-party audits every two years, employing an in-house security co-ordinator who has been provided with initial and recurrent training, FBI criminal history records and fingerprint checks and TSA security threat assessments for flightcrew, pre-flight check of all passengers against TSA watch lists and provided through TSA-approved third parties. The programme has already been introduced for commercial operators of aircraft of a similar size and above.

"This represents a significant regulatory change in the conduct of private aircraft operations," says National Business Aviation Association president Ed Bolen and Phil Boyer, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in a joint letter to TSA administrator Edmund Hawley.

"With over 15,000 aircraft, 10,000 operators and 300 airports impacted, the voluminous regulatory changes proposed in the NPRM and the introduction of new concepts such as third-party auditors and watchlist checking firms, it becomes impossible to accurately determine the impact of the NPRM and respond to TSA solicited requests for comments and alternatives in the time frame provided," says the NBAA/AOPA, which represent the 10,000 operators with aircraft affected by the rulemaking proposal

The business aviation community is committed to promoting security, the associations argue, and the industry's actions since the 9/11 terrorist attacks have reflected that fact. However, a key concern is that the proposed rule appears to have been written with commercial operations in mind.

"These private operations are fundamentally different from those conducted by air carriers and we must carefully examine the impact of the TSA security requirements on their operations," says NBAA/AOPA

"It is important that whatever is done to promote security should be tailored to the operation and the risk involved," Bolen adds. "There are ways to maintain the balance between enhancing aviation security and preserving the mobility and flexibility that are at the foundation of business aviation."

Source: Flight International