Aviation Security and Undeclared Hazardous Materials: Congress Takes Action on ALPA Priorities

By ALPA Staff

ALPA continues to advocate for improvements to aviation security with Congress and the Trump administration. Recently, the Association secured several victories on the security front, and ALPA continues to educate Members of Congress and their staff on the need for enhanced security throughout the U.S. airspace system.

Air cargo security bill

ALPA applauds the recent passage of H.R. 4176, the Air Cargo Security Improvement Act of 2018, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Air cargo security remains a major concern, and the bill is a success on many fronts. This legislation directs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to establish an air cargo security division within the department; conduct a feasibility study regarding expanding the use of computed tomography technology to screen air cargo transported on passenger aircraft, including a two-year test program; and authorizes a comprehensive review of the Certified Cargo Screening Program as well as the Known Shipper Program.

The House also passed the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2017, which created a working group to study standards for breeding and training explosive-detection canines for aviation security as well as an airport perimeter and access control study that ALPA supported. Air cargo security continues to be a top priority for ALPA, and this legislation recognizes the need for continued improvements within the TSA to address potential threats to aviation.

FFDO program

Since the passage of the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act in July 2002, pilots have been trained and deputized to serve as law enforcement officers in airline cockpits as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. ALPA is committed to the support and funding of this program. Included in the recently passed FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2018, the FFDO program will receive a slight funding boost, up to $23,881,000, to properly train pilots as the last line of defense on U.S. airliners. This funding ensures the continued success of the U.S. government and industry partnership to aid in protecting the airline industry.

SIDA/perimeter security

The safety and security of airports remains a chief concern for the Association, and ALPA continues to advocate and educate Congress on the need to expand security identification display area (SIDA) protections to include cargo areas. Airport perimeters are very difficult to protect; however, the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act included an amendment providing $10 million in funding to the TSA to conduct research on, analyze, and test existing airport perimeter-intrusion technology. This amendment will provide better information to airports on how to improve security.

Undeclared hazardous materials

Addressing the dangers associated with the shipment of undeclared hazardous materials continues to be one of ALPA’s top priorities. These parcels—including liquids, flammables, and other materials—shipped on commercial aircraft without proper labeling, packaging, and declarations could catch fire once on board. While the Department of Transportation (DOT) tracks incidents in which hazardous materials shipments create safety hazards, such as a leaking package or other type of external evidence that the package is a safety concern, there are no official estimates of what percentage of parcel shipments contain undisclosed hazardous materials. This presents a significant safety risk. In 2017, the DOT received 1,082 reports of such incidents, and 479 of these involved undeclared hazardous goods.

ALPA continues to advocate for the screening of undeclared hazardous materials and is working with Congress to authorize a study to determine the extent of which these materials are shipped by air to identify ways to minimize this risk. The Association is also advocating that the study be included in the upcoming 2018 FAA reauthorization bill in the Senate. In addition, ALPA is engaging with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and other federal agencies on collaborative ways to address the risk that undeclared hazardous goods pose.


This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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