Survey says: TSA shares GA airport assessment results

June 28, 2010

Findings from a Transportation Security Administration survey of general aviation airports could lay the groundwork for developing a grant program for security enhancements at GA airports.

The TSA met with AOPA and other GA associations June 23 to discuss the preliminary results of its Airport Vulnerability Assessment Survey, which is intended to help TSA stakeholders and planners assess security needs and vulnerabilities and provide funding to improve security. This survey is the first step in obtaining data for the TSA to determine how to develop a security enhancement-specific grant program for GA airports. Currently, the only federal grants for GA airports are administered by the FAA and are typically provided for safety enhancements, not security.

“AOPA supports the TSA’s initiative to begin the development of a grant program,” said AOPA Manager of Security Brittney Miculka. “However, we continue to caution the TSA on how it uses the information in this survey and presents it to policy makers in Congress. The results should be used for the allocation of funding, not the imposition of requirements.”

The agency distributed assessments to officials at 3,000 public-use general aviation airports nationwide in January focusing on those facilities with a runway of at least 2,000 feet and those near major metropolitan areas or prohibited airspace. The survey fulfills a congressional mandate, the 9/11 Commission Recommendation Act of 2007, and is not based on any “specific, credible information to suggest an imminent threat to the homeland or general aviation,” according to the TSA.

The TSA used the survey to gain a baseline understanding of what security measures GA airport officials would like to see implemented at their airports. Of the approximately 1,200 respondents, the top enhancement preferred was perimeter fencing, followed by closed circuit television and improved lighting, the agency told associations.

AOPA and the TSA also discussed the importance of a layered approach to security, which includes voluntary measures such as AOPA’s Airport Watch Program and encouraging pilots to properly secure their aircraft when not in use.

Before the TSA establishes a grant program to fund security improvements at airports that request them, the agency plans to conduct site visits to certain airports to validate the data from the survey, and then begin to establish criteria and a mechanism for providing grants and financial aid. Any grant program must then be approved by Congress in a Department of Homeland Security funding bill.