New TSA rules are flight risk

If the Transportation Security Administration has its way, security at Grand Junction Regional Airport and many smaller airports could be tighter come June 1.

At least the inconvenience factor will definitely be higher.

That is, unless airport officials, private aviation groups and politicians are successful in persuading the TSA to postpone and change its new security rules.

There are a number of reasons to hope they are successful.

First, as Rex Tippets, manager of the Grand Junction airport told The Daily Sentinel, the cost for this airport to meet the directive will be from $5 million to $6 million. And the June 1 deadline is “ridiculous,” Tippets said.

It would normally take two to three years to complete all of the work the TSA wants performed, including construction of a security fence on the north side of the airport. Building that fence will require substantial earthwork and a detailed environmental review, Tippets said.

Beyond that, it appears that TSA has not fully evaluated the impact of its new rules on private aviation. The rules will require private pilots to obtain security badges and undergo background checks in order to have access to their planes, hangars and runways.

And the directives would require each airport to develop its own program for issuing badges and conducting background checks, a requirement that many see as another unfunded mandate from the federal government.

In addition, because the rules require pilots have security badges for each airport they visit, or be escorted by airport personnel, the new requirements could even be dangerous. They may make it more difficult for pilots to stop for needed fuel on cross-country flights and they could discourage private pilots from taking to the air to help in medical emergencies.

It’s almost as if TSA wants to make the use of private airplanes as costly and inconvenient as possible.

No wonder Colorado’s 3rd District Congressman John Salazar, has written a letter to Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano, who oversees TSA, urging her to delay the new rules and re-examine them.

He is not alone. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has also written Napolitano, questioning the need for the new regulations.

We hope Napolitano and others at TSA listen. Security is important. But so is a functional private aviation system.


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