August 27, 2004
In a letter sent today to the editors of The Boston Globe, AOPA President Phil Boyer expressed his shock over the newspaper's unbalanced and irresponsible reporting on the supposed terrorism threat posed by general aviation.
"It is irresponsible to imply that nothing has been done to safeguard general aviation. That is far from the truth," Boyer wrote, pointing out the numerous GA security programs that have been put in place since September 11, 2001.
An August 26 article headlined "Analysts warn of small-plane terrorism threat" used a yet-to-be-released study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as the source for claims that GA presents an immediate threat to the safety of the nation. But even CSIS has denounced the Globe's article as "incorrect" and "incomplete."
"If your writers want to provide fair and accurate coverage on general aviation, consider the world's largest aviation organization as a resource," Boyer wrote. "Don't ignore us next time an issue develops."
General aviation got its say before a broad audience today when AOPA President Phil Boyer responded to recent media reports claiming that GA is a terrorist threat. During a morning drive-time interview on WTOP radio, Washington, D.C.'s top-rated news station, Boyer defended security measures already in place for general aviation [broadband connection recommended]. Shortly after that interview, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), author of a not-yet-released study cited in a Thursday article in The Boston Globe headlined "Analysts warn of small-plane terrorism threat," denounced the article as "incorrect."
During the interview, WTOP reporters asked Boyer about a scenario outlined in the Globe suggesting that terrorists could use a small airplane to attack major sports stadiums like Washington's FedEx Field. Boyer pointed out that airspace restrictions already prevent small aircraft from flying over stadiums nationwide, and that in Washington, D.C., an additional 15-mile no-fly zone and other restrictions make the nation's capital one of the safest places in terms of aviation activity - a point the reporters seemed to find comforting.
"It's a tough time and any little bit of reassurance is always welcome," the WTOP host responded.
Boyer also reminded the public that most GA aircraft are operated in much the same way as other forms of personal transportation, like cars.
"There's the general aviation airplane in which the pilot and the passengers know each other," Boyer said. "That's the norm." He added that the security measures imposed on commercial airlines and charter operations don't make sense for small airplanes used for personal transportation.
Boyer also noted that following the events of September 11, 2001, AOPA and the GA community began to immediately address security issues. Today, GA is still actively working to improve its own security with new national guidelines for airport security, photo identification for pilots, and programs like AOPA's Airport Watch that use the people who know GA best - pilots and airport businesses - to watch for and report suspicious activity.
Boyer's comments followed a week in which supposed general aviation security risks were hyped in the general media. While many of those reports seemed to be sparked by the Globe article, CSIS, author of the study on which the article was based, stated that the organization has not drawn any conclusions about the vulnerability of GA to terrorist attack.
"The Globe article is incomplete and does not take into account a broad range of findings that are still under development," said Jay Farrar, CSIS vice president for external relations.
For more information, see " General Aviation and Homeland Security."
August 27, 2004
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