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Thu, Jan 28, 2010

Final: ANN's TOP Heartbreaker of 2009--The TSA

...And Here, Darn it, Is The Worst Heartbreaker Of 2009

It is both the most "fun," and most difficult task, facing the ANN staff at the end of every year -- determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause of aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastising those people or entities that did all they could to undermine the many successes the aerospace community has managed to accomplish.
 
Alas, 2009 saw more than its fair share of downers, aviation-wise. Sure, "stuff" happens... but a few folks, issues, or entities seemed to go out of their way to create problems for the world of aviation.

So... it is ANN's annual obligation to recognize Ten of our Aero-Heartbreakers for 2009... in something of an informal order, starting from the 10th to the 1st.

Let us know what you think of our selections... whom YOU would have liked be included, or omitted, from such a list. In the meantime, we hope those who had something to do with this year's selections think a little more positively about the welfare of this industry, so that future lists become harder and harder to catalog.

Be it ignorance, arrogance or just plain incompetence, these were the folks or topics that made our lot a whole lot more difficult and immeasurably injured the aviation world in the past year.

Shame on those issues, folks, or groups that made our lot so much tougher in 2009...

Aero-Heartbreaker #1: The TSA

By Tom Patton, News Editor

Our Greatest 'Heartbreaker' In Aviation 2009 describes not a person, but an agency. The Transportation Security Administration.

TSA's biggest problems were at least in part not of their own making: there was a lack of permanent leadership at the agency, and so there was no one really to steer a clear course. The GA and Biz-Av communities spent much of the early part of the year fighting the proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP). The proposed rule would have required, among other things, flight crewmember criminal history records checks and security threat assessments; watch list matching of passenger manifests; and security training for all flight crew members. Operators would also have been required to have "Security Coordinators" on-staff.

Still another requirement would have required that designated reliever airports -- airports that function to ease traffic at larger commercial facilities, primarily by attracting corporate air traffic -- comply with new security requirements. There would have been further security measures for large aircraft operators in all-cargo operations, and for operators of passenger aircraft with a MTOW of over 100,309.3 lbs (45,500 kg), operated for compensation or hire. TSA received more than 7,000 comments about the LASP, most of which were negative. A quick search on ANN will give you a great overview of the LASP debacle.

Then there was "Operation Playbook", which, as ANN reported in March "... appears to focus primarily on improved airport surveillance... in the form of increased, nonspecific security patrols (i.e, patrols conducted at random times) and random checks of personnel -- including pilots -- on the ramp at participating airports. As stated by AAAE, TSA notes "Operation Playbook" is a voluntary program... but the impetus is clearly on airports to concede to the TSA guidelines, despite the fact those facilities will be responsible for all costs incurred on their side to comply with requirements of the agreement."

TSA also tried to implement a security directive that would have required an onerous badging system at individual airports that could have kept airplane owners from walking to their airplanes unescorted.

TSA ran into another firestorm when it proposed to replace, or at least supplement, metal detectors at airport security checkpoints with full body scanners, which would allow a fairly clear view of what was going on under passengers clothes. The proposal drew fire from civil liberty groups and privacy organizations.

We could go on, but you probably get the point. At the beginning of this year, President Obama's choice to lead TSA, Erroll Southers, withdrew his name from consideration for the top job at the agency, there was an incident in which honey alerted an explosives detection machine, and a TSA agent reportedly planted a plastic bag of white powder in a college student's suitcase as a "joke". Not an auspicious start.

To be fair, the vast majority of TSA employees are professional, efficient men and women doing a difficult job to keep us safe in the air. As is often the case, the problems seem to lie with the leadership, or lack thereof, at the agency. But for the body of bad proposals that could have crushed GA and led to onerous regulations for business aviation at a time when they needed it least, it is with really no joy that we name the Transportation Security Agency our 2009 "Greatest HeartBreaker In Aviation".

FMI: Comments/Criticism???? Let Us Have It!

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