AOPA urges pilots to be extra vigilant as 9/11 anniversary approaches

<BR><SPAN class=twodeck>DHS issues alert but leaves threat level at Yellow</SPAN>

May 9, 2003

The Department of Homeland Security yesterday issued an alert, warning that al Qaeda terrorists may once again be planning coordinated attacks using airliners, this time focusing on foreign air carriers that may be operating near or transiting U.S. airspace. Although the alert makes no mention of general aviation aircraft, AOPA is calling on GA pilots to continue to pay special attention to their airports' security.

"It's imperative that we do our part," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The Airport Watch program offers tips on what to watch for and a nationwide toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE) for reporting suspicious activities."

The DHS alert also warns that al Qaeda may be contemplating types of attacks it has not used before against soft targets in the United States, saying, "Operatives still at large view attacks on U.S. territory as a priority and that they continue to pursue a range of targets, tactics, and capabilities to accomplish this objective."

"Even though the alert does not mention general aviation, the threat to soft targets should raise the concern of every citizen," said Boyer. Among the sorts of soft targets mentioned in al Qaeda operational plans are apartment complexes, gas stations, and restaurants.

"We can make GA aircraft and airports less desirable as targets or potential weapons simply by following the Airport Watch advice and being friendly, inquisitive, and watchful."