The federal government has taken an active role in ensuring the security of general aviation with a multi-layered system of security procedures to identify and thwart an act of terror before it occurs. A few measures taken by the federal government include:
By their nature, general aviation airports are like a suburban neighborhood. At a general aviation airport, rows of homes are replaced with rows of airplanes - most no heavier than a Honda Civic. Neighbors know neighbors, and everyone does their part to ensure the security of their airplane as well as the security of their neighbor's airplane.
That is precisely why AOPA worked in conjunction with TSA to launch AOPA's Airport Watch program. The Airport Watch program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and a training videotape to educate pilots and airport employees as to how security of their airports and aircraft can be enhanced. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge calls Airport Watch "a great example of government and the private sector working together to secure the homeland.
AOPA's Airport Watch is supported by a centralized toll free hotline ( 1-866-GA-SECURE) provided by the government, which operates the reporting system through the National Response Center. Members of Congress and TSA officials have hailed Airport Watch as a "blueprint" for government/industry partnerships in other transportation modes.
These airport watch concepts have been proven to work. Time and again, the TSA has praised the valuable information they have received from pilots reporting suspicious behaviors.
A November 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on general aviation security noted that "the small size, lack of fuel capacity, and minimal destructive power of most general aviation aircraft make them unattractive to terrorists and, thereby, reduce the possibility of threat associated with their misuse."
The report found that most of the airports GAO visited had, on their own initiative, established a number of security enhancements, using either airport revenue or state or federal grant money to fund some of the enhancements. The report concludes that continued partnerships between the general aviation (GA) industry and the government, such as AOPA's Airport Watch program, are vital to the long-term success of efforts to enhance security at the nation's general aviation landing facilities.
Much has been done to improve general aviation security; however, we need your help in spreading the word! Please distribute and promote programs like AOPA's Airport Watch and the TSA's "Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports." Help us ensure your constituents and airport operators are remaining vigilant and security minded. AOPA and the aviation community will continue to work with the government on sensible security solutions. By working together, we can continue the growth of general aviation in a safe and secure environment.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.