TSA Debacle: June 1st Deadline for Mandatory Badges Approaches
Despite stiff pressure from a number of aviation member organziations, the Transportation Security Adminstration has so far not backed down from a June 1st deadline for a rule that will require all unescorted personnel to have approved badges while being on the active areas of the ramp of an airport that has commercial air service or risk huge fines and possible additional legal action.
The directive is unclear, and despite its imminent release, the rule is little known by pilots, FBO operators or security personnel. Questions abound, and it's hard to find answers for them. Exactly who needs badges and where they need them is unclear, and it 's not clear where, if anywhere, a pilot might look to find out if he, for instance, needs an escort from his airplane to the terminal building of an unfamiliar airport that he lands at after hours.
As an example of just how little known the rule is, I called the desks at my local FBOs to find out how much, if anything, they knew about the new directive. The answer in both cases was, it was the first time they'd even heard about it. The front desk attendant at Atlantic Aviation in Austin, for example, assured me in a very poilte way that I must be wrong about the directive, because he surely would have heard about such a thing. He did give me a number to get a badge, if I wanted one.
When I spoke with a TSA official at the airport who did know about the directive, I was told that Atlantic's ramps were not controlled areas--though nothing in TSA's guidance would lead one to believe that--and that the tee-hangers at Signature, further down the field, were for some reason required-badge areas, though they're hundreds of yards further way from the airline terminal. And in case you were wondering, there are no markings or signs of any kind to indicate which areas are prohibited and which are not.
What the rule requires is equally unclear. Do pilots who fly in to an airport served by even one airline flight a day require a badge, FOR THAT SPECIFIC AIRPORT? The rule seems to suggest they do. This is, of course, an absurdity. I counted: last year I landed at 32 different airports that I think have airline service, and I might have missed a couple. How could a pilot be expected to get badges for every one of those airports--would a personal visit be required for the fingerprinting and background check application?
To add insult to injury, the TSA is instituting this rule by way of a security rule process, which seems little more than a way for the TSA to put forth the rule and not have to address what it knows will be a deluge of negative comments.
And we agree. It's time to contact your elected officials and ask them to put pressure on the TSA to do the right thing here. The rule, in our opinion, would be confusing, unevenly implemented, randomly enforced, and completely unfunded. AND it would do no positive good toward improving security.