In a message prepared especially for pilots attending AOPA Expo 2002, the head of the Transportation Security Administration announced that his agency will fund a special toll-free number as part of AOPA's Airport Watch. Adm. James M. Loy praised the program as a "great product" that will help secure the nation's general aviation airports.
AOPA President Phil Boyer opened the Saturday general session announcing AOPA's Airport Watch to the membership. The program, modeled after the highly successful Neighborhood Watch program, will enlist the nation's 550,000 general aviation pilots to watch for and report suspicious activities at GA airports.
"AOPA developed the program, including the educational materials," said Boyer. "We'll send an Airport Watch brochure to every AOPA member, put posters in FBOs, and produce a videotape for use at pilots' meetings. The one thing we needed help on was a single, easy-to-remember telephone number for pilots to report suspicious activities."
AOPA turned to TSA.
"When I gave [the Coast Guard] a call and talked with them about the importance of this particular initiative," said Loy in his taped comments, "they were delighted to add AOPA's Airport Watch as a twentieth phone number to be monitored at the national Response Center, that for AOPA's Airport Watch program."
TSA provided the toll-free number 866/GA-SECURE (866/427-3287). When it is activated in early December, a live operator will answer, take information, and route the call to the proper local law enforcement agency.
"I'm delighted we were able to act quickly [on the AOPA toll-free number suggestion]," said Admiral Loy. "Now I encourage pilots across the country to participate."
After Loy's comments were presented, members of AOPA's senior leadership talked with members about many of the behind-the-scenes efforts the association makes on behalf of members.
Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula outlined AOPA's nationally recognized lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the federal government. He explained the efforts of his division to monitor and, if necessary, influence, changes to airspace, regulations, or certification; fight proposed airport closures; and argue against undue restrictions.
Karen Gebhart, senior vice president of products and services, talked about the AOPA credit cards available through AOPA Certified partner MBNA and the five percent FBO rebate program available to members who use the credit card. Since the program's inception in the late 1990s, MBNA has rebated nearly $10 million to AOPA members. And Gebhart announced that early in 2003, members will be able to claim their rebates online.
AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg drew a chuckle when he flashed a slide showing a laundry list of ASF programs and told the audience he was not going to talk about them. Instead he talked about ASF's online educational courses, including the brand-new IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By. The animated refresher course walks a pilot step by step through a typical flight in instrument conditions.
With 387,000 members, AOPA is the world's largest civil aviation organization, representing the interests of general aviation pilots.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is the nation's only private, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to providing continuing pilot education and safety programs for general aviation.