The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last night issued an " Advisory to General Aviation" to be alert for unusual or suspicious activities at general aviation airports. A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) representative told AOPA that while no new airspace restrictions are anticipated, DHS felt that because of information and analysis from the Terrorist Threat Integration Center received in the last 24 hours, the advisory was necessary. The advisory sites "recent reliable reports" indicating that al Qaida is in the last stages of planning an aerial suicide attack against the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Although no information was provided about any threats in the United States, pilots are being asked to report all unusual or suspicious activities at airports.
"AOPA fully supports heightened vigilance and has shown this commitment through the AOPA Airport Watch Program," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "However, we're very concerned about the sweeping generalizations in the DHS advisory that aren't necessarily accurate."
For example, the advisory states that a GA aircraft "loaded with explosives is the equivalent of a medium-sized truck bomb." That is far from reality for the majority of GA aircraft. The typical general aviation aircraft, particularly one that could be flown by a "less skilled pilot," can only carry several hundred pounds. The "medium-sized truck bomb" that killed six in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 weighed 1,500 pounds.
Nevertheless, pilots should do their part and watch for persons loitering in areas with aircraft, aircraft with unusual modifications, persons who appear to be under stress or under the control of other persons, and persons loading unusual payload into aircraft.
Suspicious activity should be reported using the toll free Airport Watch general aviation hotline at 866/GA-SECURE.