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TSA/FAA Waiver & Airspace Access Program
A selection of FAQs and answers surrounding recent TSA Waiver changes.
Recent changes to the NOTAMs which define the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Waiver program have brought this often misunderstood program to the forefront of operators’ minds.
Although the changes to the program may be new, failure to comply with TSA Waiver requirements is a story I have seen play out far too many times. Being in possession of a valid TSA Waiver is a requirement for many operators coming to, or over-flying the United States and is often over-looked.
The result of failing to comply can be costly and embarrassing: Imagine a pilot having to explain to his passengers that they will be unable to operate their private jet to a desired destination, because he failed to obtain proper authorization from the governing authorities in the U.S. It’s certainly happened before, where pilots who have neglected to comply, have caused flights to be diverted, grounded, or even canceled altogether.
Given the changes recently announced to the program, it is important to review the Airspace Access Program’s purpose and requirements - and cover some frequently asked questions that I field on the topic.
WHAT IS THE AIRSPACE ACCESS PROGRAM? The official TSA website - www.tsa.gov - states, “The office of Airspace Waivers manages the process and assists with the review of general aviation aircraft operators who request to enter areas of restricted airspace.
For each waiver applicant to support the vetting requirements, last name, first name, social security number or passport number, date of birth and place of birth are collected. For applications for aircraft operating into, out of, within or over-flying the United States, the waiver review process includes an evaluation of the aircraft, crew, passengers, and purpose of flight.
The office then adjudicates the application and provides a recommendation of approval or denial to the FAA Office of Air Traffic Services. In other words, the Airspace Access Program is used to vet the crew, passengers and the purpose of flight to identify persons traveling on general aviation aircraft that could be security threats in an effort to enhance national security.
WHERE CAN I FIND THE PUBLISHED REQUIREMENTS? Special Notice NOTAMs 6432, 6433, and 6499 were published on August 27, 2010 and became effective as of September 1, 2010 to replace the previous NOTAMs and are responsible for defining the program’s requirements for operators, procedures, lead times and contact information for the competent authorities.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF WAIVERS? Yes. There are six different waiver types available through the Airspace Access Program which cover authorizations for different types of restricted airspace. The waiver types are Domestic, Sporting Event, International, DASSP, Disney and Special Event. The waivers type names are fairly self explanatory, but following is an example for each.
• Domestic waivers grant access for aircraft to operate within restricted air space due to TFRs in the territorial U.S.
• Sporting Event waivers are required for events such as National Football League games and NASCAR events that have defined TFRs.
• International waivers - the most common - authorize otherwise restricted aircraft to operate to/from or within the U.S. and its possessions’ Territorial Airspace.
• ADASSP waiver is required for any general aviation operator flying into KDCA, Ronald Reagan National Airport. (Note: To qualify for a DAASP waiver, the operator must have an approved DCA Security Plan, operate from an approved gateway airport, and carry a licensed Air Marshal on their aircraft).
• The Disney waiver governs access to air space above either Disney theme park, both of which have set TFRs.
• The Special Event waiver would cover access to events with restricted airspace such as the Republican or Democratic National Conventions and the Super Bowl.
WHAT OPERATIONS REQUIRE AN INTERNATIONAL WAIVER? The International Waiver is the most commonly required waiver and is at the center of the recent changes under the new NOTAMs. International Waivers can be obtained for Crew Only, Passenger, Cargo, or Cargo and Passenger operations.
They are available as Fleet Waivers for multiple aircraft valid for up to 90 days or as a Single Trip Waiver for a single aircraft valid for less than 90 days.
Whether or not an operator requires a TSA Waiver Authorization to perform their flight to, or over Territorial U.S. Airspace (13 Nautical Miles from U.S. landmass) is determined by Country of Registration, Maximum Takeoff Weight, and Itinerary. The Regulatory Services team at Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. has developed the following cheat-sheet with examples to help clarify the lengthy NOTAMs.
EXAMPLES: a) U.S. Registered - MTOW 100,309 lbs or less NOT REQUIRED
b) U.S. Registered – MTOW 100,309 lbs or more ONLY REQUIRED WHEN OVER-FLYING THE U.S. (EX. CYUL-MMTO)
c) Aircraft Registered in Mexico, Canada, Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands; MTOW 100,309 lbs or less; Operating directly to or from the U.S. or within the U.S., or originating and arriving in any of these countries over-flying the U.S. NOT REQUIRED
d) Aircraft Registered in Mexico, Canada, Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands; MTOW 100,309 lbs or less; Overflying the U.S. either not originating or not arriving in any of these countries. REQUIRED (EXAMPLE: MMTO-EINN OR MGGT-CYUL)
e) Aircraft Registered in Mexico, Canada, Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands; MTOW greater than 100,309 lbs; Operating directly to or from the U.S. NOT REQUIRED
f) Aircraft Registered in Mexico, Canada, Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands; MTOW greater than 100,309 lbs; Operating within the U.S., or over-flying the U.S. REQUIRED
g) Foreign Registered Aircraft (not mentioned above); Operating directly to or from the U.S. only.
NOT REQUIRED (EXAMPLE: EGGWKTEB-EGGW)
h) Foreign Registered Aircraft (not mentioned above); Operating within the U.S. or over-flying the U.S. REQUIRED
WHAT AREAS MAKE UP THE U.S. AND ITS TERRITORIAL POSSESSIONS? The NOTAMs address operations for the following areas: The Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE FOR CHANGING THE NOTAM REQUIREMENTS? A press release from TSA described the need for the changes, “Beginning September 1, 2010, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is eliminating the international waiver requirement for flights entering into the U.S.”
TSA will continue to conduct necessary security screening by utilizing data collected through the Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (e-APIS). By partnering with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to use e-APIS data, TSA is eliminating an often burdensome process for business aviation and promoting governmental efficiency.”
By removing the TSA Waiver requirement for all e-APIS controlled legs, Brian Delauter, General Manager of General Aviation, TSA, said they have reduced the number of International Waiver applications in September by approximately 60 percent.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A TSA WAIVER? TSA and the FAA have a joint website to administer the Airspace Access Program that can be found at https://waiver.c3.faa.gov/. An operator can register as a new user which will allow them to submit waiver applications, access historical data for previous waivers, and monitor the status of any requests. It’s important to note that an operator will only be able to view waivers that are requested under their specific username.
LEAD TIME IS REQUIRED TO OBTAIN A TSA WAIVER? Due to the fact that the request has to be processed by multiple agencies and offices, TSA requests that operators submit requests with 5-7 business days’ lead-time. It’s important for operators to monitor the status of requests in case TSA kicks the application back to them to make corrections or provide clarification.
HOW DO I PROVIDE PROOF THAT MY TSA AUTHORIZATION HAS BEEN OBTAINED? Your valid TSA Waiver approval unique authorization number should be loaded into the comments section of your filed flight plans, so that TSA’s Freedom Center, in conjunction with ATC, can easily identify it. Pilots are also required to carry a hardcopy of the waiver approval letter on board the aircraft.
HOW DO I CONTACT THE OFFICE OF WAIVER PROCESSING AT TSA? Questions concerning the Airspace Access Program can be directed to the Office of Waiver Processing in Washington D.C. at (571) 227-2071. Be sure to listen to the menu for your specific waiver type. After hours, the FAA Situation Room can also provide assistance or information regarding specific requests at 202-493-5107.
WHERE CAN I GO FOR MORE ASSISTANCE WITH THE WAIVER PROCESS, OR QUESTIONS? Universal’s Regulatory Services department has experience processing waiver requests of all types since the program’s inception. The team can be reached 24/7, 365 at 713-378-2734 for assistance with the application process or for questions.