June 1, 2008
By Kathy Dondzila
The recent years of heightened security have impacted many aspects of our lives, and general aviation has gotten its share of scrutiny. There are 19,000 general aviation landing facilities in the United States—from grass strips to metropolitan airports—that fill a vital role in air transportation and the national economy, and each airport has its own unique security needs. Each of the more than 600,000 pilots who fly at those airports play an important role in securing the local aircraft and airport property.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has developed a document titled, “TSA Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports.” It details basic security measures that pilots and airport managers should consider implementing in an effort to thwart the possible use of aircraft and airport resources by criminals or terrorists.
AOPA has summarized the essence of this security document into four words: “Lock Up-Look Out” and has created AOPA’s Airport Watch program in partnership with the TSA. By following the guidelines in the Airport Watch program’s literature, DVD, and online General Aviation Security course, the airport community—pilots, aircraft owners, FBO employees, and others—can work together to better protect aircraft and airport resources.
Security breaches covered by negative national news reporters are embarrassing and damaging to GA’s reputation, and can lead to further operational restrictions. Pilots and airport personnel can safeguard against security problems by locking up aircraft and securing airport property, and looking out for and reporting suspicious activity.
Optional auxiliary locks can be installed on the throttle, prop, or wheels, and each one adds a layer of security to an aircraft. If you have a hangar, be sure to keep it locked, whether your airplane is in it or not.
Airport buildings should be locked at the end of the day, and some additional lighting for dark outside areas might be in order. Perhaps a fence or a gate would be appropriate for your airport, or requesting random police patrols or even hiring a security guard.
What do you do if you spot suspicious activity? Call 866-GA-SECURE—the toll-free hotline operated by the TSA Operations Center in cooperation with AOPA’s Airport Watch program. It’s important to know that calling the hotline does not dispatch police, so if you’re witnessing a criminal or dangerous activity, call 911 immediately.
While you are enjoying the heightened summer activity at your airport, chatting with friends on the tarmac or in the FBO, be aware of those around you. By spotting and reporting suspicious activity, you could be the next airport hero general aviation applauds.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: Who should I contact if I don’t want to receive phone calls from AOPA?
A: Contact Member Services either by e-mail or telephone (800-872-2672) and let us know your preferences. You can also specify your e-mail and mail preferences.
Q: I’d like to give an AOPA membership as a gift to a friend. Can I do that?
A: Absolutely. Giving a friend or relative an AOPA membership provides them with information and tools that help them fly safely and get more enjoyment out of flying. Your gift recipient will receive a special gift card announcing your gift and the AOPA Pilot’s Cap. Use our convenient online form or call Member Services to help someone special celebrate the holidays or any special event.
Q: Could I be putting myself at risk by flying without renter’s insurance?
A: Yes, you could be putting yourself at risk. But, most important, you’re putting yourself in financial jeopardy when flying without renter’s insurance. The average cost of an aviation claim is $30,000, in addition to legal fees, which average $20,000 per accident but can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances. Why take the financial risk, when the AOPA Insurance Agency offers renter’s policies for as low as $90? Call the AOPA Insurance Agency, 800-622-2672.
Member Services contact information:
Phone: 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.
After hours: Renew your membership, reset your Web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership and much more by clicking on Manage My Membership on the Membership Services page.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
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