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DHS Formulating New Screening Requirements for International Business Flights

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is in the process of developing several new security requirements for overseas business jet flights as part of its continuing focus on general aviation (GA) operations. The new security protocols include a demonstration program at a couple of foreign FBOs to validate specific processes used for screening of GA passengers and cargo at designated overseas airports (excluding Canada and Mexico) before business jets depart for the United States. As an incentive, the DHS is considering the possibility of providing operators that participate in the program with greater operational flexibility.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the proposed new security requirements in mid-November at the Aviation Business Roundtable. Although Chertoff acknowledged that many business aircraft operators have followed security best practices voluntarily, he reiterated the DHS’s strong desire to screen U.S.-bound GA flights at as many foreign locations as possible. Chertoff said these new security procedures are needed to prevent business jets from being used by terrorists to enter the country, to transport weapons of mass destruction or to be used as weapons themselves, similar to the way that airliners were utilized on September 11, 2001.

Since Chertoff’s presentation, NBAA representatives have been working with DHS and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials to make sure that any screening requirements reflect the unique needs of GA. One concept that the DHS is considering is using selected overseas FBOs as security portals for business jets flying to the United States. The agency is working with Signature Flight Support on a pilot program to have screening performed at the FBO’s bases in Anchorage, AK and Shannon, Ireland.

However, NBAA is opposed to granting GA flights access to the United States through only a few foreign portal airports. Forcing business aircraft to make an intermediate stop would diminish the time savings and reduce the efficiency currently enjoyed by longrange airplanes that are capable of flying direct to their destination.

The Association also notes that requiring an additional otherwise unnecessary takeoff and landing poses potential safety risks. NBAA will continue to monitor the demonstration program and work to make sure GA needs are reflected in any future government security initiatives.