Airport Watch at center of industry-proposed security guidelines

November 17, 2003

AOPA's Airport Watch program is the backbone of new general aviation security guidelines presented to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Monday. The guidelines are the work of a special committee, made up of AOPA and representatives from virtually every facet of the aviation industry. Most of the recommendations reflect positions AOPA has held since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"General aviation was not used in the September 11 attacks and in fact has never been shown to be a terrorist threat," said, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "In fact, the head of the TSA recently told Congress that the threat from GA had been overstated.

"But because GA continues to receive undue attention from security officials, we felt it was vital that our members be represented on the panel.

"The most basic premise of the guidelines is that one size does not fit all," he continued. "Local airport officials and pilot communities have the best perspective on the security needs at their airports."

The guidelines drawn up by the GA Airports Security Working Group of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee are designed to be useful to everything from a back-country airstrip to a bustling GA reliever like Teterboro in New Jersey or Montgomery Field in San Diego. At the heart of the guidelines is AOPA's Airport Watch.

"Establish an Airport Watch Program," the report says. "Utilize the AOPA Airport Watch Program and/or develop a similar watch program."

The report submitted on Monday notes that the government has already implemented a number of security measures originally proposed by industry, including:

  • Screening of pilot databases;
  • Requiring pilots to carry a government-issued photo ID as well as pilot certificate;
  • Developing and issuing new, hard-to-counterfeit pilot certificates.

The government has also issued restrictions for foreign pilots and foreign pilot training and, working with charter and business aircraft operators, developed security programs for those types of operations.

On its own, industry has taken a number of steps to enhance security, including:

  • AOPA—developed Airport Watch and worked in conjunction with TSA to provide a nationwide toll-free hotline for reporting suspicious activity, and Real-Time Flight Planner, which helps pilots avoid restricted airspace;
  • American Association of Airport Executives—developed a set of airport security recommendations;
  • Experimental Aircraft Association—using Airport Watch materials, educated members in its nearly 1,000 chapters to enhance security through increased vigilance;
  • General Aviation Manufacturers Association—working with the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, is helping identify suspicious customer activity or transactions;
  • National Agricultural Aircraft Association—developed educational security materials for its members specifically related to aerial application;
  • National Air Transportation Association—through its Business Aviation Security Task Force, issued security recommendations for all aviation businesses to follow;
  • National Association of Flight Instructors—developed a series of security recommendations and best practices for flight schools and flight instructors;
  • National Association of State Aviation Officials—drafted its own recommendations regarding general aviation security;
  • National Business Aviation Association—developed, and working with TSA, implemented a "proof of concept" security protocol;
  • United States Parachute Association—distributed detailed security recommendations to all of its skydiving clubs and centers across the country.

Including AOPA, the GA Working Group was made up of 10 GA associations, representatives from several individual airports, the FAA, and the TSA. The Aviation Security Advisory Committee, of which the working group was part, includes representatives from GA, the airlines, and the defense and intelligence communities.

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