Since its inception, the Airport Watch program has been quietly but quickly gathering momentum. AOPA has shipped some 4,000 signs to airports around the country, urging pilots to be security conscious and to use a toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE) if they see any suspicious activity at the airport.
"Like the neighborhood watch programs it's modeled after, Airport Watch relies on airport community members to keep an eye on things," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. It's a nuts-and-bolts, day-in-day-out effort, and we're thrilled to see so many pilots buying into the concept all across the country.
For instance, at Arthur Dunn Airport in Titusville, Fla., the GA airport closest to NASA's shuttle launch facility, Airport Support Network volunteer Larry Gilbert has worked closely with airport officials and says they have embraced the program. The county airport authority has mounted Airport Watch signs on all of the gates at all three county-owned airports.
At Goose Creek Airport outside of Charlotte, N.C., word that the Airport Watch program was being implemented brought a number of positive media reports, showing GA pilots as actively helping to secure smaller airports.
And in Aurora, Ore., the Columbia Aviation Association sponsored a dinner presentation of the program for pilots and invited local law enforcement officials.
It's not just pilots who are getting involved in the program. New Jersey's Department of Transportation requested 200 of the signs with the stated intention of putting one up at every general aviation airport in the state.
AOPA partnered with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to establish a nationwide toll-free hotline for reporting any potential national security risks. The hotline is staffed at all times and can direct calls to the proper law enforcement agencies, from local police to the FBI, immediately.
AOPA and TSA also worked together to distribute information about the program to every pilot in the United States. AOPA sent a brochure to all of its nearly 400,000 members, while TSA arranged to send it to all of the remaining pilots.
Photo: Airport Watch sign on an entry gate at Arthur Dunn Airport in Titusville, Fla. Photo by ASN volunteer Larry Gilbert.