General aviation security discussed at 9/11 hearing

August 18, 2004

General aviation security discussed at 9/11 hearing

The 9/11 Commission report continues to draw attention in Washington. Even though Congress is in the middle of its August recess, nearly 20 special hearings have been announced to discuss the report's recommendations. And while aviation security has been foremost in those discussions, general aviation is being recognized for its successful voluntary security measures, like AOPA's Airport Watch program.

"AOPA's Airport Watch gives the flying public the resources they need to guard against terrorism," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The 9/11 Commission report identified a vigilant public as one of our nation's best lines of defense." Airport Watch is modeled after neighborhood watches and based on the fact that people who frequent an airport will be the first to notice when something isn't right.

During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Monday, committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked a series of questions on aviation, including a question about whether the commission had any concern about general aviation security.

Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton told McCain that GA has adopted voluntary security standards. Hamilton also noted that GA is a much different industry than commercial airline operations, and that, while GA has some vulnerability, the commission did not make any specific general aviation recommendations.

AOPA Legislative Affairs staff has been working closely with the staffs of the senators and representatives serving on the committees examining security, providing them with briefing materials and answering questions on GA security, and attending critical hearings.

Hearings have covered all modes of transportation and the restructuring of the intelligence community. The Commerce Committee hearing focused on the 9/11 panel's recommendations for transportation security. According to the 9/11 Commission, over 90% of the nation's spending for the Transportation Security Agency goes toward aviation.

AOPA has been working to ensure that continued interest in aviation security does not result in more hassle for general aviation pilots.

"Security remains a politically charged issue," said Andy Cebula, senior vice president of Government and Technical Affairs. "AOPA will continue advocating for common-sense security policies for general aviation."

Members of the 9/11 Commission have been consistent in not looking for scapegoats or "quick fixes." At that same hearing, commission Chairman Thomas Kean reiterated a point that AOPA has made about risk: Security measures should be related to the actual threat.

"In making decisions about how to allocate limited resources to defend our vast transportation network, we believe strongly that TSA must use risk management," Kean said. "This requires that the government evaluate the greatest dangers not only in terms of terrorist intentions as we understand them, but also taking into consideration the vulnerabilities of the nation's infrastructure and the consequences of potential attacks."

August 18, 2004