Airport security rule causing concern in Colorado |

Airport security rule causing concern in Colorado

Mike McPhee
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado

A new Transportation Security Administration directive that requires pilots and support personnel to pass a background check at any of Colorado’s 13 commercial airports at which they might work, has left airport administrators and private pilots wondering how they’ll manage costs and the logistics.

Rex Tippetts, director of aviation at Grand Junction’s Walker Field, estimates security directive 8F will require him to provide 2,000 additional security checks and badges.

“It’s out of control,” he said. “We have a large maintenance operation here with 400 people. We have a large interagency fire-fighting operation here, with maintenance facilities.

“It’s an unfunded mandate we have to comply with,” he said. “We had to hire people just to comply with it.”

Jim Ellwood, director of Sardy Field in Aspen, called it “an onerous regulation” for both the airport and the people it affects.

“It will be time-consuming and difficult to accomplish,” he said. “The TSA has been increasing their burdens on airports consistently. We’re frustrated, but understand that the TSA is trying to do its job as well.”

Directive 8F applies only to the 13 commercial airports in Colorado that have regularly scheduled passenger and freight flights: DIA, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Alamosa, Durango, Cortez, Telluride, Montrose, Grand Junction, Aspen, Eagle, Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins/Loveland.

The directive has only been released to airport managers, who are charged with implementing the procedures on their own.

A TSA spokeswoman, Carrie Harmon, would not release a copy of the directive to The Denver Post.

Instead, she wrote that all personnel with access to the secure areas of the airports, including private pilots, shall undergo a Security Threat Assessment, which includes matching the employees against the terrorist screening database, a check for lawful immigration status and a check for open warrants.

Secure areas was not defined, but is generally perceived to be the areas that airplanes and fuel trucks have access to.

Separate badges are required for each of the 14 airports. Transient pilots without badges or a badge from a different airport must be escorted through the secure areas, whether to the fuel pumps, to maintenance garages or to entrance/exit gates. The same applies to their passengers and guests.

“It has no commonality,” Grand Junction’s Tippetts said. “What about the huge number of pilots at Centennial and JeffCo who come here with no badges?”

Originally, the badges were to have been issued by March, but opposition and confusion has pushed that deadline back to June 1.

Individual airports may implement the program as they choose and charge whatever they feel is necessary. Prices range from free at some airports to $130 at Grand Junction. Montrose issued badges for free through March and now will charge $50 each.

Questions on badges persist

At a large meeting in Montrose recently, four TSA representatives discussed the 8F directive with aviation personnel, many of whom left the meeting with more questions than answers.

Rene Medina, chief inspector for Western Skyways, a Montrose-based rebuilder of airplane engines with an international customer base, estimates that 65 of the company’s 100 employees will have to receive security badges.

“It’s ridiculous. You can walk 50 feet to the end of our fence, then jump over a barbed wire fence onto the field,” he said. “And each airport has to have its own badge. We asked why there can’t be a universal badge, but didn’t get an answer.”

Medina said he anticipates the directive will affect anyone who does business at the airport, such as limo drivers and people who manage the vending machines. “Even the guy who delivers us rags will have to have a badge.”

“Why are we doing this?”

Dennis Heat, director of the Front Range Airport, called the directive draconian. “We’ve just taken a major step in shutting down the nation’s general aviation system.”

General aviation is the umbrella under which all nonscheduled and nonmilitary aircraft fall. It includes all charter aircraft and privately owned aircraft.

“No one will argue with security, but this is a nation in a lot of hurt. General aviation is a huge economic generator that polices itself very well,” Heat said. “Why are we doing this?”

Jeff Green, director of communications for Denver International Airport, said security is already very tight at DIA and that the airport is too expensive for general aviation pilots to land there for refueling or repairs.

“It won’t have much of an impact here,” he said. “If someone lands here, we can escort them.”

Mike McPhee: 303-954-1409 or

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