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TSA to Extend Post-9-11 Security Rules to Private Jets

01/06/2009 -This morning, members of the business aviation community as well as some recreational fliers will be at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, to express their displeasure at new security rules the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) wants to impose on private aircraft.

According to The New York Timesyesterday, TSA is seeking to extend the post-9-11 security rules regulating commercial aircraft to private aircraft that weigh more than 12,500 pounds during take-off.

Under theproposed Large Aircraft Security Program(LASP), aircraft operators will screen pilots using their fingerprints, check passenger names against the terrorism watch list, and impose restrictions on items that private aircraft cannot transport.

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The Times reports that DHS' new rule will close gaps in aviation security left open after 9-11. Before the proposal, private airplanes the size of commercial aircraft were exempted from the rules. Ten thousand previously exempt aircraft operators will now fall under the new rules, angering many businesses and corporations that use private aircraft for business purposes.

“Businesses have airplanes in order to transport what they produce, sometimes because it’s too difficult or impossible to carry onto an airliner,” Ed Bolen, president of the 8,000-member National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), told the Times. “Tool companies that can’t take their own products, sporting goods companies that can’t take their own products on to their own airplanes, that doesn’t make sense.”

But much of the ire is directed at the TSA's decision to impose the increased security costs on aircraft operators. The most expensive part of which will be paying private firms hired by TSA to certify an aircraft operator is not in violation of the LASP. TSA estimates that security costs will rise $44 per flight.

Despite cost concerns, the use of private firms to certify that a private aircraft operator is following the program raises even more pressing, and contradictory, security concerns, according to critics.

Private jet owners are also angry that the security agency is proposing to hand security functions over to private companies, notable because the T.S.A. was created after 9-11 in part due to concerns that private companies had failed to adequately screen passengers at commercial airports .... “They’re expanding their regulatory scope so dramatically and outsourcing regulatory oversight,” said Andy Cebula, executive vice president for government affairs at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “That’s like the most basic responsibility of government to go out and enforce its regulations.”

The overwhelming negative response to the proposed rules led TSA to double the time for public comments from 60 days to 120 days and organize five public meetings, the first of which is currently underway at  Westchester County Airport, which will give those unhappy with the rule the ability to comment in person.

For a schedule of when and where the final four public meetings will be held, the NBAA has the informationhere.