The Secure Existing Aviation Loopholes Act, H.R. 3798, was recently introduced by Congressman Markey (D-MA). The bill is intended to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and is the latest attempt to address security issues within aviation using a poorly aimed shotgun approach. In addition to requiring additional security measures for air cargo operations, the bill also has other requirements applicable to aviation in general.
With respect to air cargo, the bill requires that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security establish a system for inspecting or screening all cargo that is to be transported in a “passenger aircraft”. The costs of activities and services for cargo screening would supposedly be paid for by a cargo security fee that the bill establishes for that purpose. The bill further requires that all foreign air carriers, charter and all-cargo flights have a Federal Air Marshal on board.
The bill would expand to “all passenger aircraft” the requirement to secure the cockpit door that is currently limited to Part 121 air carriers. It also incudes language requiring the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to establish no-fly zones around sensitive nuclear and chemical facilites and to complete vulnerability assessments of all airports serving general aviation aircraft.
Unfortunately, the bill is a prime example of legislation aimed at aviation operations that legislators do not understand. The bill does not define “passenger aircraft”. Thus, as written, the language could be broadly construed to include both Part 121 and Part 135 air carriers. However, Part 135 operators rarely carry both passengers and cargo on the same trip. Application of the bill’s requirements to Part 135 operators and others operating “passenger aircraft” would result in onerous costs and procedural burdens to address perceived problems that seldom exists in Part 135 operations or other general aviation operations. Along with the additional requirements beyond air cargo operations, the bill is another example of knee-jerk legislation in the absence of any credible, identifiable threat.
Fortunately, the bill has been referred to both the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructue and the Committee on Ways and Means. Hopefully it will remain in either or both of those committees until it can be rewritten to eliminate the unreasonable requirements or, better yet, to simply die a slow death without ever receiving a vote.