Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief James Loy last week paid tribute to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for AOPA's efforts to enhance general aviation security. AOPA was the only general aviation organization to be so honored.
At a ceremony marking TSA's second anniversary, AOPA was presented a Partnership Award. The award recognizes industry partners or other governmental agencies whose accomplishments and excellence in performance distinctly benefit the interests of the United States and clearly advance TSA's mission to protect the nation's transportation systems and significantly enhance TSA's ability to achieve its overarching goals.
Working in close consultation with TSA, AOPA developed Airport Watch—a neighborhood watch-type program that calls on pilots and airport tenants and employees to keep a watchful eye on their local airports. AOPA supplied all of the educational materials for the program, including a "what to watch for" brochure that was mailed to every single member of AOPA. TSA provided a nationwide toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECURE or 866/427-3287) and arranged the staffing to man it, so that pilots would have a single, easy-to-remember way to report their suspicions. TSA also made sure that all pilots who are not members of AOPA received a copy of the Airport Watch brochure.
Following the ceremony, one TSA official told AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula that while Airport Watch was certainly one of the reasons AOPA was honored, the award was for AOPA's overall efforts to work with the agency to enhance GA security. "I must say it feels even better to be honored for our overall efforts, rather than for just one program," said Cebula.
"We work hard to maintain an open dialog with TSA," he continued. "But that doesn't mean the discussions don't get heated. AOPA is not afraid to challenge TSA when we believe their security measures are unnecessarily harming GA.
"In just two years, the agency has come to play a huge role in GA's use of the national airspace. Refusing to work with TSA would be just sticking our heads in the sand, and would be a tremendous disservice to our members."
The more than 400,000 members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association make it the world's largest civil aviation organization. The association is dedicated to defending the interests of general aviation and protecting the nation's GA airports.