May 22, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
General aviation tenants facing constrained access under security rules at Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport expressed hope that progress is emerging from months of negotiations with officials.
Tenants and airport administrators are finding common ground on modifications proposed by AOPA to the commercial-service airport’s security plan that would preserve GA tenants’ and customers’ access to businesses and premises on the airport.
Once a consensus is reached, federal officials would have to sign off on the changes, said Dave Ulane, AOPA Northwest Mountain regional manager.
Progress toward a solution in Grand Junction has begun to emerge through collective efforts of users and airport administration following a December 2011 public hearing in which the airport’s GA community aired its concerns, he said. AOPA reported Nov. 30, 2011, that access problems in Grand Junction exemplified complications created for GA by Security Directive 1542-04-08F/G. The directive, issued by the Transportation Security Administration in 2008, requires security threat assessments and airport-issued identification for all persons having access to commercial-service airports’ operations areas.
AOPA warned at that time that “a complicated patchwork of access control restrictions would emerge throughout the nation” as airports with commercial service worked individually to comply with the security rules.
Following the Dec. 7, 2011, public hearing, the Grand Junction Users and Tenants Association began to focus as a group on the security access problems, and on airport leasing policies.
In January 2012, Ulane and the group met with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (D-Colo.). Grand Junction Mayor Tom Kenyon also attended.
On Jan. 31, The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority Board established a security solutions committee, consisting of users and an airport administration representative. The panel met several times in February.
In April, the users and tenants group became a 501c(3) nonprofit organization.
In an April 5 letter to the airport authority, AOPA noted the progress being made by the groups working on security, and urged quick implementation of a mutually beneficial solution. The letter encouraged support for the effort by the Grand Junction City Council and the Mesa County Board of Commissioners.
Once the users and administration agree on details, the solution will require the TSA’s agreement that the modifications would be adequate to control access to operational areas of the airport, Ulane said.
The movement to exempt thousands of general aviation pilots from the third class medical certification process is gaining momentum in Congress and the aviation community.
The recent warrantless stops and searches of law-abiding pilots on general aviation flights have drawn the attention of mainstream media.
The National Aeronautic Association has awarded the Collier Trophy for “the first unmanned, autonomous air system operating from an aircraft carrier.”
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