WTOP report misled on aviation security

June 6, 2012

AOPA and five other aviation associations represent the bulk of those who make and fly general aviation aircraft, and work closely with security officials and the FAA to keep aviation safe.

But when a Washington, D.C., radio station aired a report purportedly focused on general aviation security concerns, it raised obsolete issues that those expert sources could have easily put in perspective—or in some instances, simply dispelled.

Unfortunately for its listeners, WTOP aired its dubious report—which described small aircraft as among terrorists’ most sought-after weapons—without seeking expert input on GA security. Making the station’s lack of research for its May 7 report harder to grasp in the aviation community was that four of the six highly visible aviation associations are located within 10 miles of WTOP—a fact that the associations pointed out in a letter to the station’s vice president of news and programming.

“We are concerned because the report treats issues that were raised and addressed ten years ago as if they are new, and because it fails to make any mention of the myriad, multi-layered changes to general aviation security that have taken place since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,” wrote AOPA President Craig Fuller and the presidents of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, the National Air Transportation Association and the National Business Aviation Association.

Their letter summarized the security precautions that are taken to establish the nationalities and check the backgrounds of prospective pilots.

They explained in the letter to WTOP Vice President Jim Farley that the Transportation Security Administration “recognizes that the many different missions and types of airports and landing facilities that general aviation operates from make a one-size-fits-all security solution impossible.”

Noting that much more is being done in the name of security than was reported, the associations offered to share their expertise with WTOP in the event that the station attempts to revisit the aviation-security issue.