Trying Out TSA's Directive SD-8G

An unintentional sampling of a typical airport experience.

I really hadn't meant it as a test of the TSA's latest security directive, but as it worked out, it couldn't have been planned any better. Weeks ago, I had made a June 1 appointment with Sensenich Propeller Service at Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Airport. My home-airport shop had noticed some shifting on the backing plate of the Hartzell MV-converted prop on my Bonanza, and suggested I let an expert have a look. Since SPS (no longer affiliated with Sensenich the manufacturer) had overhauled the prop in 1999, I took it back there. Ground control directed me to taxi right up to their hangar. So far so good.

The shop's airside facility is right next to the terminal, so when I needed to use a restroom, that's where they told me to go. As I walked across 100 yards of tarmac toward the big sign saying "To Terminal," a Cape Air Cessna twin was unloading on the ramp out front. Hmmm, I thought. What's the date, again?

The well-marked door was unlocked, so through it I went, vaguely expecting some official form of recognition that I had passed through the looking glass into Airlineland -- at least a security counter, if not an X-ray screener. Nothing. Just a quick turn around a corner and I was alongside Cape Air's quaint check-in counter, with the TSA officer's desk in front of me. The door I had come through had a sign warning that only authorized personnel were permitted to use it to get back out to the ramp, but not really defining who was -- or wasn't -- "authorized." Not wanting to get stranded, I asked the uniformed TSA man if I'd be able to get back out to my airplane the same way I came in. His answer was a shrug. He mumbled, "yeah," along with a half-hearted head nod. Then he added, "You can check with the Airport Authority if you want," pointing to a glass door marked "Airport Authority." I decided I didn't want -- I'd leave well enough alone. If it was okay with the man packing the 9 mm, it was okay with me.

As the technician worked on my airplane, I passed through the same door a few times to have lunch and revisit the restroom. No one looked twice. Later, I asked where I could buy a fresh battery for my headset, and they told me I could walk down the ramp to the pilot shop. On the way, I passed a hangar and ramp with signs posted in the grass outside saying, "No Transit." I kept going, on the theory that I had "permission" from the Sensenich folks, and that ought to buy me an ounce or two of forgiveness from whoever might holler, "Halt." My biggest challenge came in the form of a ring-necked plover that shrieked and charged out at me from what must have been her nest in the high grass nearby one of the No Transit signs. Maybe she was the one who posted the signs.

So my unofficial test on Day One of TSA's SD-8G turned up no hits, no run-ins, and my worst error seemed to be walking too close to a bird's nest.

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