AOPA management went straight to the top today to explain general aviation security issues. In a White House meeting with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, AOPA President Phil Boyer and Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula said that the general aviation community was willing to be part of the solution to any security concerns. "Give us an idea of the risk or threat, and we'll come back with practical solutions," Boyer said. The more than 1,200 AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers at airports across the nation can help in relaying low-cost or no-cost ideas to improve security without hamstringing GA operations.
Boyer described AOPA's commitment to keeping the nation's pilots up to date on the status of airspace and the multi-faceted efforts of the association's Government and Technical Affairs staff in providing information not only to pilots, but also to the FAA and government security agencies.
Governor Ridge acknowledged that the government's own information efforts had not always been effective, specifically noting the very short advance notice given for the TFR closing the airspace near Washington, D.C., during the President's State of the Union address. "That won't happen again," Ridge said.
Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania, was well aware of the important role GA airports play in the nation's transportation system, making specific recognition of Wings Field (AOPA's birthplace) near Philadelphia.
And he acknowledged that GA requires different treatment than the airlines, saying that it is "impossible to secure every mom and pop airport like an airline airport."
Boyer reviewed AOPA's pilot photo ID proposal with Ridge, who seemed impressed with the idea. "I will mention this to Jane [Garvey, FAA administrator] as a practical solution," Ridge said.
Governor Ridge was also very interested in the set of 12 common-sense recommendations AOPA and several other general aviation organizations offered last December to enhance GA security. Ridge said he would present the information to General Bruce Lawlor, who is responsible for aviation within the Office of Homeland Security.
"I was encouraged that Governor Ridge has an understanding of what general aviation is and how important it is to America's pilots to have reasonable rules that preserve the utility and flexibility of GA aircraft," said Boyer.