Tuesday, June 09, 2009


SD-8G sounds like a new TV spinoff, about a portal into an alien world, but it's Security Directive 1542-04-08G, an insight into the way the TSA thinks about airports. As of June 1st, 2009 the TSA declared that everyone having unescorted access to the airside at any airport with airline service must undergo background checks for a badge, on a per-airport basis. That would be almost like requiring drivers to have a separate permit for every highway exit they use that is also used by transport trucks. It's so ridiculously infeasible that the Security Directive 1542-04-08F containing that provision did not go into effect, and, thanks to the input of pilot advocacy groups, was watered down to SD-8G which at least allows us to land, pee, and fuel our airplanes.

The new requirements, which have officially gone into effect (but might not be enforced everywhere), tell transient pilots without airport badges to remain close to their aircraft and leave its 'footprint' only for trips to and from the FBO. They haven't yet defined clearly our movements at airports with self-serve fuel, or even exactly which airports count as having airline service. (Does the "airline" have to fly something bigger than a Beaver? Does the "schedule" have to be daily? Do they have to be passenger airlines?)

They say pilots are advised to call ahead to airports they think might have airline service and assure themselves they are in compliance with the new TSA directive. Whom should we call? Are they going to publish TSA 24-hour numbers for us? I don't expect this to really interfere with my movements when I'm south of the border. American FBOs are pretty proactive, so if there is one I'll ask them what the TSA expects of me before I get out of my airplane. Any wandering around I do on the apron is usually in search of FBO personnel, anyway.

TSA hasn't interfered with safety publications yet, at least I've never seen a notation saying "pilots without badges are not permitted to park on apron C". It might be feasible to designate airports by security class, and publish those in the AF/D where pilots know what they are dealing with. Have a few where pilots require A-class badges, with the same background checks required by airline pilots, but allow a pilot to do one A-class security check and then hold a badge valid for JFK, DCA, LAX, etc. If he's at an A-class security airport with no badge or a lower class badge, he needs an escort. B-class airports would have a painted line on the apron around the area where airliners parked and you'd need an A or B-class badge to be inside the line. And so on down to grass fields in Montana with no fence around them and no stinking badges needed. What do they gain by per-airport clearance? Is there really something in my background that could make me safe to walk across the ramp and borrow a Dustbuster in Albuquerque but a threat to national security if I move away from a hangar to get better cell coverage in Spokane?

The thing that really drives security crazy is that they can put up a big fence and lots of rules but they can't control access to the airport. Despite all the barricades, signs and security checkpoints, any old Canadian can still literally fly in over the fence. For any spot on the field, if an airliner can get there, I can get there, too.

If you are a pilot, or even just hope to become one someday if time permits, or want to support the freedom to fly, I really suggest that you join COPA or AOPA. They have excellent publications and member services, but even if you never use those, they are an essential presence in monitoring and countering the regulations and fees that officaldom concoct while wearing airline-shaped blinders.


david said...

"Despite all the barricades, signs and security checkpoints, any old Canadian can still literally fly in over the fence. For any spot on the field, if an airliner can get there, I can get there, too."

That's not 100% true -- some airports have restricted aprons where GA traffic isn't allowed. No fence, of course, just a rectangle of angry yellow lines with the word "restricted" or similar stencilled on.

david said...

Oh yes, and then there's KDCA and the DC-3. A G.A. flight is not allowed into DCA without what they consider a good reason (e.g. you're flying Senator Porkbarrel's spouse back from a New York shopping trip), all kinds of security checks for passengers, even more security checks for the flight crew, and, I think, an armed guard on board. For the DC-3, you need to have a security preclearance that's impractical for anyone not based there. Dulles is not problem, though -- all I needed last year was an IFR flight plan (though now I'm also required to pass an online course and print out a certificate).

Anonymous said...

The Flying Mag. link was hilarious. It sounded like something our Aviatrix would write.

TSA has been out of control for years, and it's not clear Obama will rein it in. The directive you mention is an improvement over the secret directive ( yes, that's right, the rules themselves were secret ) 1542-04-08F but is still ridiculous.

AOPA has fought back against the "LASP" effort, the attempt to impose a security program on every operation of an aircraft with MTOW >12,500 lb ... and LASP is also stopped... but Americans need to write their congresscritters and get the TSA back into their cages before they do real damage.

It is so true it is almost trite, but Ben Franklin's quote is dead on here.

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Chris said...

We had a similar proposal here in Australia a few years back. The rules stated that any airport with 2 or more RPT flights a week was a designated secure airport. Anyone on the airside was required to display a security badge issued by the airport itself, or be escorted by someone who had a security badge. Of course this meant any pilot who regularly or even occasionally flew to more than one airport need to carry a whole bag full of different id tags for different airports. Even worse, the Department of Transport hadn't consulted any airport owners or authorities beyond the capital cities, so even if you wanted to comply with this ludicrous policy, no airports were equipped with the hardware necessary to create and issue the security id cards to ayone who required them.

Eventually the deadline came due for all pilots to carry the non-existent id cards or face hefty fines. A 'spokesperson' for the minister, who had probably never left Canberra in her life, put out a press release blaming pilots for being tardy in not requesting their unobtainable id cards, and only had themselves to blame if they got fined for not carrying them.

A letter writing campaign to the minister got a compromise (although it wasn't described as such, it was described as the ministers own brilliant idea) to issue a national card, pending security vetting checks and so on. Not an ideal situation but at least it was workable.

Chris said...

Interesting word verification - christ.

Aluwings said...

Security surrounding the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver promise to be a pain in the ailerons for local pilots and airlines and passengers at many smaller airports surrounding CYVR.

At last report the local airline which flies Navajos to Vancouver's South Terminal from Qualicum Beach (KD Air), a ten minute? trip, will be required to stop enroute at Nanaimo to have passengers and crew deplaned and passed through security procedures before proceding.

And the South Terminal is not even near the Main Terminal - and there are no existing connectors between the two facilities that remain within the secure area.

What are "they" thinking? Or is "thinking" too demanding a word?

Yes - join COPA or AOPA! COPA accomplished a lot last year in having the new ELT rule in Canada post-poned and hopefully re-written to make more sense.

Sir Lukenwolf said...

This whole security overkill malarkey starts to look like an organization we protested by marching the streets back in 1989, which usually ended up by us looking into the barrels of AK-47 submachineguns. This very organization was called "Staatssicherheit" and was east germanies secret service (although we protested about anything in connection with the state back then).

What TSA ist doing there is handing victory to bin Laden on a silver plate, because they managed to scare us enougth to us starting to imprison ourselves. Hopefully someone in the higher echelons will soon wake up before we start to give up all freedom for a fake feeling of security.

Anonymous said...

You need to be careful out there with those security types chomping at the bit so much, this chap had guns pointed at him and his passengers while doing his run up checks : http://www.avweb.com/avwebflash/news/PilotProtestsCustomsCheck_200519-1.html


Mike said...

This whole approach really irritates me. In Australia - as Chris indicated - you have to have a thing called an ASIC - Aviation Security Identification Card. It is good for 2 years and you have to tell them the name of the third cousin of your mother's great grandmother and stuff like that so that they can "vet" you.

What really sends me off is that places like YVRD - Victoria River Downs are "Security Controlled" which means you theoretically need an ASIC to land there. You find this out from the ERSA (under the "Remarks" heading) here: http://www.airservicesaustralia.com/publications/current/ersa/FAC_YVRD_4-Jun-2009.pdf

(you'll need to agree to the copyright statement).

Now with all due respect to those who live and work at VRD there is nothing f$%#%$% there to warrant a security requirement like that. But welcome to the world post 9/11

Geekzilla said...

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. My concern is with the integrity of the myriad of security and airport personnel. How difficult would it be to coerce, bribe, or blackmail just one official into looking the other way?

Now I'm not suggesting TSA and airport personnel to be a shady collective, but all it takes is one incursion or incident to set a whole flurry of new procedures to be put into effect.

New procedures will require more personnel to be hired to enforce said procedures. More personnel means more links in the chain. By sheer statistics, the more links you have, the greater the probability of a weak link.


Frank Van Haste said...

A couple of comments ago, David said:

"For the DC-3, you need to have a security preclearance that's impractical for anyone not based there."

I'm based at one of the DC-3 airports (KVKX) but having been through the clearance process I have to say that it is not excessively onerous. You just have to plan to devote a day to it. Once cleared, the implementation procedures are really not bad.

If one were based at, say, KBOS and needed to fly into Maryland once every two weeks to visit Grandma nothing would preclude getting set up to use KVKX (or College Park or Hyde) for the visits. The only challenge would be ground transportation once you arrived.

Mostly thanks to David Wartovsky (the fellow who owns and operates KVKX) the security measures at the DC-3 fields are practical and even effective (unlike the SFRA -- formerly ADIZ -- procedures, which are just Security Theater).

As for KDCA -- well, what can one say?


A squared said...

What TSA ist doing there is handing victory to bin Laden on a silver plate, because they managed to scare us enougth to us starting to imprison ourselves.

I have to agree, the attacks have been successful beyond their wildest dreams. Approaching a decade later, we are still so frightened that we are doing silly, irrational things.

FWIW an AK-47 is not a submachine gun.

Anonymous said...

I used to think sex was the surefire way to sell anything. Now it is all too obvious that FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) far outweights sex as THE market tool

A Squared said...

TSA story from the manager of one of our stations. (The Kotzebue station, as it happens) TSA requirements for airplanes over 100,000 lb MGTOW specify that the aircraft be within a designated, marked SIDA (Security Identification Display Area) while on the ground. The idea being that anyone within the SIDA was required to posses and have visible Security Identification. A TSA official was explaining to our station manager the need to place orange traffic cones around our airplane to designate this SIDA which would preserve the integrity of our national security. TH station manager pointed out Alaska Airlines, whose facility was right next to his on the ramp, did not place traffic cones around their planes wen one was being turned. “Ahhh,” says the TSA official, “but they have a SIDA painted on the pavement of their ramp”. Station manager points out that it's winter, and in Kotzebue the ramp is covered with several inches of snow and ice, which will remain in place for the entire winter, and the SIDA Stripe will not be seen until sometime in May. “Yes” says the TSA official, “but they know where it is.” The station manager then suggests that instead of putting out cones every time a plane parks on his ramp, he sprinkle kool-aid (an effective means of conspicuously marking snow and ice) in the outline of the SIDA. TSA official says that this will not be acceptable, as it is not “permanent”. The upshot of the conversation was that in TSA-land, a “permanent” SIDA which will not be visible for the entire winter is acceptable, while a “temporary” SIDA, which will be visible for the duration of winter is not acceptable because it is temporary, at the same time a SIDA consisting of orange traffic cones is acceptable, despite having a life measured in hours (or until the next strong gust)

To add some relevance to Aviatrix's Blog entry: My airport Security Badge, because it was issued for Anchorage will not allow me to enter and exit the Kotzebue SIDA (which I must do in order to dispatch my duties) despite the fact that my badge was issued by the same government entity (State of Alaska Dept. of Transportation) which issued badges for the Kotzebue airport, and was issued only after a pretty thorough investigation of my (non-existent) criminal history by the FBI, the same background check which would be repeated were I to apply for a Kotzebue airport security badge.

Anonymous said...

"What do they gain by per-airport clearance?" Well, it means that there will be many more background checks done, and those presumably cost money. So the background-check companies gain more money, and I'm guessing they have more influence on the TSA than pilots.

Lakotahope said...

This is maddening...This simply cannot be TSAs way securing an airport. Much more involved when liberties we have enjoyed since the beginning are being flushed. BULL

Sir Lukenwolf said...

Thanx god my B1900, that's currently at PAOT is only a virtual heap of bits and bytes, so no need to cone it in, although with the TSA being involved it would be risky to bet on it.

So while my virtual plane is surrounded by equally virtual Bering Air Caravans instead of cones I will say my farewell to this TSA chaos anyway in about half an hour when I escape to russia by a short hop over the dateline towards Provideniya Bay (a former Alaska Airlines destination, surprizingly)

Geekzilla said...

Looks like Aviatrix hit a sore spot with her readers on this one!

Anonymous said...

Your virtual 1900 wouldn't need the virtual cones, because it's virtual MGTOW is less than 100,000 lb, but under LASP mentioned by "anonymous" it would have required cones to neutralize it's dire threat to national security.

A Squared said...

a short hop over the dateline towards Provideniya Bay (a former Alaska Airlines destination, surprizingly)

You can still fly to Provideniya o Bering Air.

Sarah said...

Thanks to all the worldwide readers for chiming in on their security theatre.

A^2, the SIDA marking story is a good one. Clearly there is no need for logic in designing or implementing new security rules.

I just worry that once it takes root, rules and bureaucracy are very hard to get rid of. I'm all in favor of reasonable measures to keep bad guys away from airplanes, but some of these measures are absurd. I can't believe how quickly Americans have accepted the TSA rules for airline travel, and hope TSA keeps away from GA.

Sigh. I guess it's not a huge deal to me, as I tend to avoid bigger air-carrier served airports in my widdle airplane. The fuel is typically more expensive and jets ( and jet pilots with their big watches ) intimidate me.

Sir Lukenwolf said...

@a squared:

What do they fly into Provideniya? Stuka dive bombers? Just completed the flight and it was the most crazy approach I ever shot :-O
Been vectored in by ATC some 10 miles out at 3.800 ft for a gravel runway at 66ft. with a 3000 ft hill right in my way. That wasn't an approach - it was a dive bombing - somehow managed a 156 fpm landing, but this is crazy. Hopefully this is just fs2004 having faulty data, but it surely reminded me of my first approach to Sion. A kingdom for a Dash-7. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the TSA would rather have us drink the kool-aid, assuming that there is any left after they get done drinking it.

A Squared said...

What do they fly into Provideniya?

I don't know, if I had to guess I'd say a 1900 or a King Air 200, they have both.

Aviatrix said...

The cones/invisible line/kool-aid story is jaw-dropping. It proves that the TSA do not apply logic to the security directives, because if they did, they'd all be walking around clutching their heads in torment trying to work that out.

You have to have the security perimeter marked when there is an airplane there. It's okay to have a permanent line in place, even if it's there when the airplane isn't. It's also okay if no one can see the line, so long as you know where it is. But it's not okay to not have a line, and just know where it is. It's okay to have a temporary dotted line, that is only there when the airplane is. But it's not okay to have a temporary coloured line.

You need two more data points. Is it okay to put out a few surrounding dots of kool-aid, in lieu of cones? Would it be okay if AA overmarked the location of their invisible line with kool-aid? And is kool-aid an acceptable marking device if we instead call it "temporary snow-conspicuous security perimeter pigmentation" instead of naming a children's drink?

Perhaps the image of the kool-aid mascot leaping through brick walls made the inspector worried about its security applications.

A Squared said...


jaw dropping indeed. But no more astonishing that the manifest stupidity of taking nail clippers away from pilots, so that they cannot use said nail clippers to take over the airplane, which they will be in control of anyway, or hundreds of other individual examples of utter stupidity perpetrated by the TSA.

It strikes me that this might be an opportunity to bridge a yawning cross cultural chasm from a long ago entry.... Can you appreciate that one might be reluctant to have one's health care dispensed at the whim of such people? Can you offer any reason for one to be optimistic that the US would not implement a health care bureaucracy with a level of functionality approximately the same as the TSA?

Incidentally, the 2 letter airline identifier for Alaska is AS. (at one time long ago it was Alaska Star airline.)

Geekzilla said...

"Perhaps the image of the kool-aid mascot leaping through brick walls made the inspector worried about its security applications."

LMAO!!! I haven't seen those commercials in years!

amulbunny said...

There is no logic in the TSA whether at a GA airport or a Cat X as in LAX. The whole agency is a knee jerk reaction in kabuki theater from the MMWD strip search to the Do you want to fly today attitude of some of it's personnel. I had better hopes when the new administration came in but so far, same story, different day.


Sarah said...

Perhaps the image of the kool-aid mascot leaping through brick walls made the inspector worried...

Clearly, Kool-Aid is dangerous stuff. First it was electric, then it was poisoned, now... ?

GPS_Direct said...

I blame all this on the all-around "general idiot" called John Q Public...

Take the 3 ounce liquid farce:
After I've finished my Coke on the outside of the "secure" area, I can buy another one from a vendor inside the secure area - where the totally trustworthy, 110% background screened, newly approved citizen decides which particular Coke bottle to give me... Blink...

Or the infinitely screened baggage handler can sit on the ramp and open his most certainly x-rayed steel lunch pale and pull out the same said Coke bottle... Blink.

John Q Public feels totally safe however. No liquid explosives here! And just imagine the damage to the industry/Draconian response if they had actually succeeded in dropping 10 airliners over the Atlantic.

We have become too "risk averse." I remember being in awe a few years back when a passenger on a cruise ship said "I thought I was going to die!" in response to the ship heeling 45 degrees from a rogue wave! She wasn't hit by anything... She didn't get wet... She wasn't swimming in the middle of the ocean with no raft in site... Yet she thought she was "going to die!"

We are doomed.

GPS_Direct said...

Excuse the typos/misspellings... Must remember to preview!

A Squared said...

I blame all this on the all-around "general idiot" called John Q Public...

Another example: sometime shortly after September 2001, when everyone was still a little twitchy, there was some misunderstanding between ATC and an airliner. Don't recall where or exactly why, but F-15's were launched to intercept and escort the airliner, while they sorted things out. Reporter interviewed deplaning passengers and one lady gushed about how reassuring it was to look out and see the fighter "protecting" them. Ummmmmm, lady, that fighter was not there to protect you, it was there for the exclusive purpose of killing you and everyone else on the plane if the misunderstanding turned out to be another terrorist takeover.

Unfortunately, that is the level of intellect for which the security theater is. targeted.

Sir Lukenwolf said...

Come to think of it, all this stupidity renders flying almost useless.

Somehow in Europe, authorities have managed to stay sane somehow (although I've never passed through Heathrow, so it may be a tad different there). Security checks are still sort of civilized and the only time I had to take my shoes off, was in Moscow.

I wonder how many people have just not bothered to do the awkward checkin and screening stuff and just went for the train.

A Squared said...

I wonder how many people have just not bothered to do the awkward checkin and screening stuff and just went for the train.

Well, trains are usually not a viable option in the US, but absolutely, it did change the fly/drive decision equation. When you added the time spent in the Security Theater audience to the time and inconvenience of getting from your home to the departure airport and from your arrival airport to your actual destination, it became faster and more convenient to drive on journeys in the 4-5 hour (driving time) range. Folks just stopped flying short distances.

dpierce said...

Folks just stopped flying short distances. ...

I can attest to this. We frequently visit a city 200mi away for business. Leaving the office at the same time, those of us driving almost always beat those of us flying by a wide margin, and the drivers have time to stop for a burger along the way, and are generally more relaxed.

As long as there's no road construction, the drivers always win.

I love trains, but the US just isn't cut out for them except in special circumstances. Track costs and right-of-way costs for long distance rail are prohibitive. With short distance rail, as spread out as the US is, unless your towns are designed around train stations to begin with, it just doesn't work out. You need a density that most of the US lacks to make rail work.

Sarah said...

Here is information about the list of affected US airports, including a link to the PDF list.

Individual airports will have individual "plans" so if you're planning on getting of the a/c you'd best call ahead.



Aviatrix said...

I've used a lot of airports on that list. Some of them already have quite strict security. I couldn't remember any where you could get on the field without going through a staffed terminal or FBO.

As I see it, the trouble comes when they insist on escorts at a facility that isn't staffed 24 hours.

duckman said...

"My concern is with the integrity of the myriad of security and airport personnel"

And rightly so. A person I know a few years ago (post 9/11) discovered a piece of missing perimeter fence around Schiphol (Amsterdam International). He called airport security, wasn't taken seriously.
Only after he went back, walked onto the ramp, took pictures of aircraft parked inside a hangar (not visible from the public areas) and emailed those to the airport was action taken. A few weeks later there was a fence there, and a security camera.

How's that for a hole?

Meanwhile, luggage handlers still aren't getting proper security checks before being employed, and neither do cleaning crew.
Every year there are several big sting operations that discover a constant, and high, level of corruption and theft among those workers.

Discover your luggage is missing? Don't blame the airline for loosing it. Blame the airport for hiring crooks and thieves to sort and (un)load it.

And while that goes on (no doubt around the world) small fields and light aircraft operators are subjected to ever more draconian restrictions that make their operation next to impossible.
There was even a plan here (defeated for now) to stop providing avgas at untowered fields. The only towered fields in this country are a few major airports where VFR traffic is prohibited.
Implementing of that directive would have meant that most PPL holders would have to go abroad to get fuel (they don't hold IFR certificates), and that CPL pilots would no longer be able to fly at all (they're barred from IFR as well as flying abroad).

Aviatrix said...

Do you have that backwards? Commercial pilots are banned from flying abroad but private pilots are not? Or does CPL stand for something different there?

GPS_Direct said...


Apparently the TSA isn't keen on us actually KNOWING the list of affected airports! Secret rules and all...

The link is now dead, and while searches of the EAA site show the page is there, all links are dead. AOPA has nothing at all. And forget about the TSA website (Has anybody seen that? OMG! It's like a Kool-Aid marketing page! Of course, I'm probably on a "list" now...)


Watch that the bill doesn't come back around under the guise of Environmental Protection... "Airplane Haters" never stop!

Join AOPA/COPA, call your legislators, send letters (handwritten can be better than email), support Rep. Mica's bill... Just don't sit idly by, or we'll soon be relegated to lawn chairs with ballons!

SIGH indeed.

Sarah said...

Holy crap, @gps_direct! At this point I don't think I need a tinfoil hat to suspect the list was pulled with government pressure.

TSA seems to be specializing in SECRET REGULATIONS. This is beyond the pale.

US citizens - check your congresscritters vote on HR 2200, say with this ridiculous website (I say ridiculous only because it offers vote summary by astrological sign WTF?)

Who knows? Maybe that list of airports will show up on wikileaks.org

I do know there are 17 airports on the list in Minnesota & Wisconsin. Basically, if it is a towered airport you'd better check before wandering around. I suspect as a practical matter this won't affect transient pilots during daylight hours when FBOs are open... but who knows what TSA will come up with next.

Aviatrix said...

I must have had foreknowledge. Instead of bookmarking that site, some instinct made me download the PDF file and save it on my computer. I even created a new folder called Security in my Aviation directory to put it in.

(I've backed it up and sent copies all over the world, so don't go trying anything, TSA).

Anonymous said...

Z├╝rich (LSZH)in Switzerland is far ahead of TSA. They have implemented a Rule to have a Security Badge. If you are flying to LSZH you need a flight plan ( even VFR) and you have to Call the Local FBO two hours ahead. After landing you have to park your plane in a special area and wait for a Security member from the FBO to be picked up even for just 40 meters . If you have something forgotten in your plane you need again the Security guy and have to pay about 15 Euro for each direction.
Uli from Cologne/Germany

GPS_Direct said...

For those that are still following this thread...

Using the link that Sarah posted above, you should get a link that reads (in part):

If you add Tango Sierra Alfa followed by an underscore between the 09 and the existing underscore, then prepend the word airport to the word list, and finally change .asp to .pdf, you may find a document to peruse.

Reversing the "critical" letters, and using a synonym, you should have something similar to the following:


Where's my tinfoil hat?

Sarah said...

Hehe, gps_direct, I wonder if this quote applies:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. -- R.J. Hanlon

I've found it explains bureaucratic actions quite well. Your text description is slightly off, though the template at the end (still) works.

If you add Tango Sierra Alfa followed by an underscore between the 09 and the existing underscore, then prepend the word airport to the word list, and finally change .asp to .pdf, you may find a document to peruse.

Should read "add underscore followed by tango sierra alpha between the 09 and the existing underscore..."

How you found that, I'll never know. Your google-spider obfuscation in this post is quite canny. :0

As to the hat, well it doesn't look hard to make.