Safety and Security Roles of the Airport

Safety and security were once paired with the regulations and compliance coming from the FAA. Since the creation of the TSA, these two topics have now been uncoupled, which can sometimes lead to confusion. An airport has the guidance from the FAA to provide the safest facility it can. The FAA has safety regulations and the TSA also has regulations regarding the security of airports providing commercial air service.

GA airports are less regulated in the areas of safety and security, namely due to the financial implications and the lack of personnel at these facilities to carry out any regulatory compliance. Their overall goal is to provide the safest and most secure facility possible. Safety and security are inextricably intertwined and airports can work hard to have the highest level of both.

The FAA, TSA and CBP work together to provide not only national, but local safety and protection. The roles and missions of these agencies are summarized as follows:

  • TSA – Protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.
  • CBP – Safeguarding America’s borders thereby protecting the public from dangerous people and materials while enhancing the nation’s global economic competitiveness by enabling legitimate trade and travel.
  • FAA – Developing a safe and efficient national aviation system, including responsibility for all programs related to airport safety and inspections and standards for airport design, construction, and operation (including international harmonization of airport standards).

Learn more about the safety and security roles of airports in the following sections:

  • Safety
  • Airports certificated under 14 CFR Part 139 are required to write and follow a certification program designed to ensure the highest level of safety at the airport. This larger plan has many sub plans within it that are usually dedicated to pavement management, safety management systems, snow removal plans, emergency plans and wildlife plans.

    Airports certificated under 14 CFR Part 139 are required to provide this safety plan for public protection. Part 139.335, Public Protection requires implementing means to prevent inadvertent entry into an area containing hazards for the unknowing public. Public protection is a safety measure and is the responsibility of the airport operator.

    Public protection at a Part 139 airport is typically done through installing infrastructure that would block inadvertent entry to the aircraft movement area. This is most often done with fencing, walls, and buildings. Fences need to be chain link or an equivalent type of material that is tight to the ground and impassable by errant animals or people. Fences may be brought tight to buildings and not have gaps that could be mistaken as designated walkways. Gates in the fence can be locked or otherwise controlled to restrict their opening to authorized personnel only. The public expects to see signage and fencing to tell them where they should be to remain safe.

    The FAA has a communication procedure established for airports to communicate the airfield conditions with its users. This communication is called the NOTAM system.

  • Commercial Service Airport Security
  • Airports with commercial airline service are required to develop an ASP and submit the plan to the TSA for approval. This plan designates one or more ASCs that serve as the contact person for the TSA and administrator of the airport’s ASP. The ASC ensures compliance with airport security regulation and TSA security directives, maintains employee and badgeholder records, conducts CHRCs, and maintains the ASP. In addition, the airport is required to provide law enforcement presence at the airport.

    An airport’s ASP may also require establishing a SIDA. An example of a SIDA within an airport’s secure area would be the immediate area surrounding a commercial terminal ramp. SIDA’s are designated with signage and ground markings. An airport may issue separate classes of access badges where only some of the badges allow SIDA access. In a SIDA an individual must always have their badge attached on their outermost layer of clothing where it can be seen. In a vehicle, the credentials must be displayed on the vehicle as well. Individuals must receive required training on proper protocol in the SIDA to receive a SIDA badge.

    The airlines and air taxi operators that operate at an airport have security requirements as well. These operators are regulated by 49 CFR Part 1544 Aircraft Operator Security. Although passenger and baggage screening became the responsibility of the TSA, airlines and airports do have security responsibilities. Airlines and their agents’ responsibilities for security begin long before the passenger arrives. Ticketing information is submitted to TSA for passenger list screening using the CAPPS. Part 1544 also states that it is the responsibility of the airline to prevent unauthorized items such as firearms or bombs from being brought onto an aircraft should they become aware of it.

  • GA Airport Security
  • GA airports represent the vast majority of airports in our nation. GA airports range in size from a few airplanes and a turf strip to large business jet ports with congestion similar to that of a large commercial service airport. GA airports have no federal requirements for security under TSA Part 1542 Airport Security Program. In May 2004, TSA published “Information Publication A-001, Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports.” This document provides guidance and recommendations for GA airport operators to improve the security of their airport. Airport sponsors may coordinate with their local law enforcement agency to analyze which of these recommendations can be implemented to address the assessed risk at the airport.

    Industry groups such as AOPA and the NBAA have resources to help GA airports improve their security. One successful program has been AOPA’s Airport Watch Program. AOPA has provided signs to thousands of airports alerting people that the airport is on the lookout for suspicious activity.

    Although there are no screening procedures or on-site law enforcement officers, GA airports provide a safe and secure environment. The safe environment is created using public protection measures to help those not familiar with the airport stay in safe areas, away from conflicts with aircraft and off of the airfield. At GA airports, the public is kept from inadvertently entering a dangerous area using primarily fencing and signage.