One Pilot's On-Scene Report Signals New and Draconian TSA
Efforts To Severely Limit GA Freedoms
Note: The following email is real and has been
verified as being the work-product/personal report of a pilot (who
has asked for anonymity) that attended a recent TSA meeting in
Montrose, CO, in which new and mostly unreported TSA controls were
discussed that spell incredible trouble for the aviation world...
no matter who they may be. Outside of some minor
grammar/presentation issues, the email has NOT been edited and has
been republished below so that the thoughts and observations of one
alarmed citizen may be read in their true and unadulterated form.
ANN, of course, will have far more to report on this and associated
issues shortly, but suffice it to say that this nation's so-called
Transportation Security Administration is totally out of control
and continues to threaten the freedoms of every pilot and aviation
professional in the nation. -- Jim Campbell, ANN
Subject: The TSA and MTJ (Montrose, Colorado
It seems "they" are at it again. We were told AOPA was quite
unaware of this Special Directive
While I am not the MTJ rep, and do not know who is (maybe you could
tell me) I attended, though I am the [ID information redacted],
with some 60 plus others tonight, a meeting no one had even heard
about until two days ago. And really only email amongst folks on
the field and the EAA chapter caused anyone to be there. It was a
full house, even though the address given was incorrect. I would
guess the average age was 50 with a lot of former military and
airline pilots in attendance, or folks having other long time
security clearances professionally, and who were a bit amazed at
all this. Nearly all pilots.
Four TSA reps were there from Grand Junction, we think that is
where they were from: Rennie (sp?) Dunn, Chris Putnam, Dick Wiles
and a Peter Cook. Two never said a word, Wiles offered two or three
sentences, and Rennie carried the freight. They all left in the
same US Govt black SUV. One was reputed to be a former special
forces Lt Col in the mid east and therefore familiar with security
concerns. Frankly, none were very impressive but on the other hand,
they had been volunteered for a clearly thankless role.
The basic overall concept is another "Federal Unfunded Mandate"
which several in the crowed noted, in this case known as a Security
Directive affecting all individuals having access to commercial
service airports to become effective April 30.
Anyone wishing access after that date must, on only four near term
days, apply on a preliminary basis for security threat screening.
Those dates are 2/25/ 2/28 3/4 and 3/7.
Anyone not able to be present on those four near term dates must
pay a $50 fee to begin the screening process. Persons must bring
approved identification from the approved list to be found at www.montroseairport.com
Reportedly the SD is fourteen pages, but no one except the TSA is
allowed to know what the rules are, as we ALL understood it, until
or unless you break one of the rules. Each of the four TSA people
there acknowledged they had seen the document. A Catch 22 - Alice
in Wonderland moment.
A question was raised, what redress or appeal process is
available. The answer was surely it would be reasonably
A local prominent attny who was a former prosecuting attny opined
that not only is this all backwards, in his view it was simply
It presently appears that anyone on the ramp without a TSA ID is
subject to fines or convictions in unknown amounts and arrest or
detainment by unknown persons as it seems not to be known how
enforcement will be conducted, or by whom. The sole female TSA
person, I could not fathom or match the persons to the names,
quietly said, the one time she even dared look at the crowd, that
patrolling would likely be random and infrequent. Or something very
Of course the question was then raised, why bother. No answer.
It further appears that each airport will need to conduct is own
application and fee process and then TSA will do the screening. It
further appears that each of the 450 commercially served airports
will have to issue its own security badges, raising a bit of an
issue for those who are professional pilots, travel to more than
one airport, or, put rather dramatically, stop for fuel at self
service pumps. The self service fuel vendor from Grand Junction,
Colo traveled down to this meeting and advised that at a similar
meeting yesterday, the first time fee for a screening and badge
there will be $175 per person. Montrose said their first badge will
be free, and subsequent ones on expiry of the first will be an as
yet unknown amount. I myself flew three states last weekend. The
west is a bit larger than the area within the beltway.
One fellow asked why not have identical badges at all airports so
folks know what to look for.
One on field commercial operator said it would be cost prohibitive
for all employees who might escort someone to be screened and
badged. And there are certainly are no excess personnel available
for such duty. The airport manager then volunteered the same answer
for his staff.
A couple of ag spray operators who necessarily fly into a variety
of airports here, and are always on call from various counties,
were a bit troubled by the multiple badge requirement, and since
they often are called out to do SEAT wildland fire fighting as
first responders, (until from what I can see the BLM can figure out
what to do,) they felt that waiting for a badge to get fuel and
slurry water might be just a bit of an issue. How are they to
anticipate where to apply, in advance? No answer. Multiple pleas
were made of one badge, nationally, and the response was that
concept would be taken back for discussion.
A local Colorado Dept
of Wildlife pilot felt it might be a bit of a burden to get
credentials from all his typical airports, plus those for the areas
served by the other three pilots when they are on vacation, or out
of town, not to mention the economic costs, or the time to go and
apply at different places, etc.
Several FBO employees or free lance mechanics, or the Western
Skyways Engine shop to which has customer s routinely coming in
from Brazil, Mexico and other south and central American countries,
were told, directly, they will need to staff and accompany anyone
not credentialed who is on the field. All of course said this would
break them financially, and the self fuel operators said they too
could not staff a self fuel op 24 x 7.
It is clear the Montrose Airport Appreciation day, when several
hundred people visit with old classic cars, motorcycles, balloon
rides, flybys, the LIONS cooking hotdogs and burgers to raise
funds, homebuilts on display, Civil Air Patrol handling off tarmac
vehicle parking and on tarmac crowd control, Americana if you will,
could be a bit of an issue and the TSA suggested local law
enforcement could somehow staff the escort necessities on the
field. How exactly do you escort a large milling crowd? As it
happens, I am also the [ID information redacted]. We typically have
about 100 Young Eagles we fly with a variety of pilots on those
fall days, and as a general rule, with mothers, fathers, sisters
and brothers; you could expect maybe 300 or more people in the
course of a day, not to mention grand parents, media folk, etc as a
part of that operation.
Montrose airport serves the ski crowd, and movie stars going to
Telluride, when A.) the particular aircraft can not get into
Telluride due to size or B.) Weather. And that field is to close
shortly for extended runway re-work. The Montrose FBO asked how he
was to possibly monitor 30 limousines simultaneously, not to
mention accompanying or escorting anyone within the vehicles, apart
from getting changing and independent drivers to apply for
credentials. I have seen easily 30 limos there myself, this is not
an exaggeration, may be an understatement.
Questions were raised about what is or are the levels of thresholds
for pass/fail on a security clearance, no answer.
One asked the TSA folk to verify the fine was $10,000 a day. They
could not verify anything they said. Might be less.
Questions were raised about whether a DUI or childhood infraction
would be cause for a turndown, no answer.
A question was raised whether an existing fire arm permit would be
adequate. (Presumably concealed but unclear.) No answer.
Questions were raised about whether if a person were to escort
someone who had failed a clearance, but the escorter, not the
escortee, did not know it, if that escorting person would be
charged with a violation? (How were they to conduct their own
clearances?) No answer.
Questions were raised about how many persons one with a security
badge could escort. No answer. It is being looked at….
Questions were raised
about on field ppties or buildings with ramp access and non-secure
or public access, i.e. two doors on opposite sides of a building,
were to be dealt with, and the answer was the doors must all be
locked and monitored, or screened. The following question arose,
what if a mechanic was in or under a plane servicing it, and
someone undetected walked through, who was liable. The impression
was the County might be liable.
An unfielded question was raised, what if locking doors is in
violation of the national or local fire code that all doors must be
unlocked during business hours…
Questions were raised about whether this was wheels or boots on the
tarmac, and which would constitute a violation. NO answer.
Questions were raised why an existing Federal ID, was not adequate,
say a pilots license, perhaps with a security clearance stamp on
the corner. NO answer.
Questions were raised why not a national one time clearance for all
airports, no answer.
Questions were raised about how it would be possible to get all
this done by the deadline, no answer. There were ambivalent
responses that this was only version F or G and that further
"refinements" were likely.
Questions were raised about how this was all to be paid for; the
answer was the County or City that owned the airport. The airport
manager made it clear, especially in these economic times; they
simply could not pay for this.
Questions were raised that since by far the largest part of the
airfield is surrounded by old tired three strand barb wire fence,
why require all the pilots and assorted folks to go through the
clearance process, when anyone could simply walk onto the field.
Answer County responsibility to build new fences. County has been
trying to expand what is there, but there are of course multiple
demands for funds.
No one thought to ask what would happen if the hundreds of dairy
cattle immediately north of the field were to break down the fence
and an unauthorized herdsman were to enter the field to keep cattle
off the runway.
Questions were raised about any cost-benefit analysis. No
Questions were raised about any risk-benefit analysis. No
Questions were raised about the likely source (s) of risk. No
Questions were raised about what good can any of this possibly do.
Questions were raised about how this Directive was promulgated, and
by whom, no real answer except it was signed off on by the Bush TSA
Questions were raided about how to contact someone who knew at
least some of the answers. No answer.
Questions were raised about how this clearance would rate as
compared to the various ranges of FBI clearances, no answer.
Questions were raised about whether any of the four TSA folks had
pilot licenses and current medicals, none were current or
It appeared these four were selected to stand in front of the pilot
question firing squad, and they acted appropriately enthused.
One young lady said if as a part of her job she would have to get a
clearance and badge, free at first, then renewing, she could not
afford to work at her wage at the airport.
Several questions were raised about what event caused this
directive to be promulgated; we were told they could not
Questions were raised about what would happen if a transient pilot
landed, needed unknown repairs, or fuel, walked about the ramp
without clearance, trying to find a shop or mechanic, and each
turned the pilot away and would not escort him to wherever, were
they liable? No answer.
Questions were raised about what would happen if a pilot landed,
say at night, at an unattended field except maybe the tower, if
there even were one, and needed fuel, and were spotted by a local
police or sheriff. What was either the pilot or sheriff to do? No
The six county representative for the newly appointed Senator
Michael Bennett was in attendance, made a few notes, and urged a
group letter or email, not individual contacts, and assured the
crowd the Senator would not see individual contacts but would be
aware of a group letter from someone on his staff.
Virtually every commercial operator said the plan, to the extent it
was disclosed, was either totally unworkable, or will bankrupt
them. One self service fuel vender said it would immediately break
them. Some noted this was not highly desirable for the vendor, the
pilot, or the national financial recovery.
A comparison was made between this directive and early TFR's which
had no areas defined, and were not published anywhere, until AOPA
began publishing them, but pilots were advised they would be dealt
with harshly if they violated those unpublished TFR's since release
of the data was secret and a national security issue..
The TSA lead suggested
pilots look at the World Aeronautical Guide to see what airports
had commercial service before landing. Several pilots said what
were they to do if weather, turbulence or lack of in in-flight
Guide, or inability to read it and fly the plane simultaneously,
and in-flight mechanical issues were to cause them to make a
precautionary landing at an unplanned airport for which they had no
badge.. No answers.
It was noted this concept was brought by the Dept of Homeland
Security whose first head on national TV proposed everyone getting
visqueen and duct tape to wrap their houses against chemical
attacks, and the TSA who mandated a certain very ill considered
pistol holster for Federal Flight Deck Officers, which most
thoughtful and knowledgeable gun folk thought was sure to result in
accidental discharge, and did, in an Airbus, by a captain who was
nearly brought up on charges til covert circulation of an actual
demonstration of how this gun would have inevitably been
A wide variety of questions were posed as to whether the TSA or
Department of Homeland Security had really thought all this
through. No real answer.
I raised the question of if there are some 600,000 licensed pilots,
and untold numbers of passengers, limo drivers and their
passengers, mechanics, vendors, etc why not have the TSA and FAA do
a mass clearance by pilots' licenses, rather than all these one off
clearances nationwide, which would be far more efficient, with a
high volume and low cost per pilot, paid for by the TSA, not the
Counties, or pilots, and at least get those 600,000 clearances to
people statistically unlikely to be a problem, then move on to all
the other groups. NO answer, except it appeared the TSA said they
had no funding. Actually, who does?
What is the estimated cost? Aren't new proposals supposed to be
accompanied by reasonably estimated cost?
There were a variety of questions and intramural mumbling about how
effectiveness could be measured, whether a program this dumb could
be continued, and whether the real goal, perhaps by the commercial
carriers, was either to kill off general aviation, or at least get
it totally off the 450 air carrier airports? No answer.
A question, by a recently former US Army helicopter pilot, how long
would it take to get clearances, now, or subsequently, if an
ID/clearance was needed for a new or differing airport, where
access was needed? No answer?
A question was raised about whether local police, sheriffs, fire
dept or their volunteers would need clearance to get on the field.
The answer seemed to be, probably not.
It was clear the airport manager and county commissioner were
trying to be gracious in view of a new surprise regulation, for
which they too were not given any or many answers, but were
supposed to somehow make work, and fund, when they are already
unable to fix roads, bridges, human services etc. They made it
abundantly clear, they did not see how they could fund or staff
badging on an ongoing basis, much less the escort issue.
A former county commissioner who does a great deal of heavy and
timely airfreight shipments, asked how that was to be done with a
variety of vendors or delivery services coming to the field with
differing drivers at all hours that needed access to load planes.
No real answer on how he could continue to ship.
I could go on but I can not recall with any specificity all the
issues raised, I might be able to identify and get you a contact
for one person who worked feverishly to record it all on a laptop.
The meeting, opened by one Montrose County Commissioner, was really
rather civil, which that commissioner and the airport manager both
charged the crowd to be. In view of the near total lack of answers,
or real responsiveness, this was remarkable. It certainly did not
inspire confidence in the TSA or Homeland Security folk.
This was not TSA's finest hour.
Hope this representative recollection helps. I am sure I overlooked
some things, and could not hear others.