As you may have heard by now, the TSA released its GA Airport Security Guidelines on May 17, 2004. The guideline document is an “Information Publication”, not a regulation or rule, and is designed to establish non-regulatory guidelines for general aviation airport security. Recognizing that a single approach to security at all airports was not appropriate, and quite honestly, impossible, the guidelines include industry best practices and a tool for airport operators to assess each individual airport and determine what security enhancements may be suitable or appropriate.
How does an operator make this assessment? Well, the guidelines contain the “Airport Characteristics Measurement Tool”. An airport operator self-administers this tool to determine existing vulnerabilities on the airport, security enhancements that are currently in place, or security enhancements are most appropriate for implementation. The tool takes into account airport proximity to mass population areas or sensitive sites, number of aircraft based at the airport, length of runways and number and types of operations at the airport.
The interesting, and potentially problematic aspect of these guidelines is the fact that they are subject to local interpretation and implementation. The guidelines state “Airport operators should rely on their experience and intimate knowledge of their facility, applying those items that are both reasonable and effective.” This sound great in principle, but I can very easily see an overzealous or misguided airport operator trying to implement security enhancements that are both unreasonable and ineffective.
Discretion is great, as long as it is exercised appropriately and within reason. The general aviation industry will be watching how these guidelines are implemented with great interest and reserve.