Aviation Business Journal Third Quarter 2011 - (Page 9)

Inside Washington Should Ground Handling Companies ”Opt-In” to Federal Regulation? By Eric R. Byer D uring the May 17, 2011, NATA Airline Services Council (NATA ASC) meeting, an interesting discussion took place as to whether ground handling companies should be permitted to become regulated parties under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). I have always marveled at how both federal agencies have treated FBOs and airline services companies as “non-regulated” entities under their respective regulatory framework. There are FBOs and airline services companies at all 450 or so Part 1542 commercial airports in this country. Each of these companies has from a few employees to hundreds of employees working within the confines of the airport operations areas or security identification display areas. And each employee of these companies has undergone the same background check, security threat assessment and badging process as employees of the airports themselves and the various Part 121 air carriers that conduct operations from those airports. Yet, despite their active participation in ensuring proper security at our airports, these FBOs and airline services companies are largely left in the dark when new security protocols are implemented. Should FBOs and airline services companies become regulated by the TSA and the FAA to be full participants in the system? In the discussion of this issue, many May NATA ASC meeting attendees pointed out that being under the regulated arm of the federal government would allow companies direct access to security information that is otherwise kept from ground handling companies. Whether these companies are handling baggage, fueling, or catering, their personnel are usually the first to come into contact with commercial aircraft. They are one of the first lines of defense at a Part 1542 commercial airport. However, whether it is a security directive issued by the TSA or a local change to security procedures by the airport’s federal security director, FBOs and airline services companies seem to be one of the last groups to learn of these changes. FBOs and airline services companies learn of security changes second-hand from the air carrier’s security program that they operate under or from the FSD/airport. Ironically, a number of federal agencies fine ground handling companies for not complying with security changes (of which those companies may not be aware because no one told them). Among the potential benefits of federal regulation discussed would be access to the various web boards that have been established by the TSA for regulated parties (cargo, airports, airlines, and TFSSP), direct war risk insurance coverage and direct contact with TSA officials who often are not willing to discuss security matters because ground handling companies are “non-regulated” in the eyes of the attorneys at the TSA, the FAA and other federal agencies. Of course, there are obvious drawbacks to this potential change. First and foremost is the increase in regulatory compliance hassle and paperwork inherent in dealing with the TSA, the FAA, Customs and Border Protection, and other federal agencies. We have not heard much from the Feds themselves as to how keen they are on this topic. Some folks with whom I have spoken at the TSA and the FAA see the potential upside as appropriately including ground handling employees under the regulatory framework of the TSA and the FAA since they undergo the same badging process as other regulated parties. However, these same folks also say that current staffing and resources are limited and that any potential regulatory change would have to be approved by Congress. Some have raised the idea of conducting a study or developing a program of five or more airports where ground handlers Continued on page 10 Aviation Business Journal | 3rd Quarter 2011 9

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Aviation Business Journal Third Quarter 2011

Aviation Business Journal Third Quarter 2011

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