The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has partnered with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) to develop a nationwide aviation watch system. Key to the program will be a toll-free hotline and a centralized system for reporting and acting on information supplied by general aviation pilots.
AOPA's Airport Watch will enlist the support of some 550,000 general aviation pilots to watch for and report suspicious activities that might have security implications. The hotline will be formally launched in December 2002.
"We appreciate AOPA's proactive approach to enhance security for the general aviation community," said Acting Under Secretary of Transportation of Security Adm. James M. Loy. "It makes sense that the world's largest civil aviation organization would offer their expertise for the collective effort in the war on terrorism."
"Who better to know what's normal and what's suspicious at a local airport than the people who spend a lot of time there?" said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA's Airport Watch is designed to work like the highly successful neighborhood watch programs used in communities across the country."
Many airports have already begun their own airports watches, frequently in conjunction with local law enforcement. To build on the success of these local efforts, the program will include special materials, including a video, to train pilots to be alert for sinister people or activities on the airport.
AOPA will distribute Airport Watch materials to the 5,400 public-use airports in the nation, pilot groups, and individual pilots. The program shows pilots what to watch for and offers common-sense steps that individual citizen pilots can take to enhance the security of their airports and their aircraft.
"General aviation airports are very much like small towns or neighborhoods," said Boyer. "Everyone knows everyone. People who don't fit in to the normal course of airport activities are noticed.
"When pilots band together, we become a dynamic network of watchdogs for what is happening at our airports," Boyer said. "It makes sense. AOPA's Airport Watch will be a powerful weapon in the arsenal against terrorism."
"Airport Watch is a mutually beneficial program that allows America's dedicated general aviation pilots to remain vigilant and focused as they serve our country and the security challenges we face," said Loy.
The 385,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has been representing the interests of general aviation pilots since 1939. General aviation includes all flying except the scheduled airlines and the military. More than two thirds of the nation's pilots, and three quarters of the aircraft owners, are AOPA members.
The Transportation Security Administration, born out of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, is responsible for discovering, preventing, and dealing with threats to transportation security. TSA protects the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.