AOPA has teamed with the Bureau of Aeronautics in Michigan's Department of Transportation to distribute AOPA's Airport Watch kits to every flight school in the state. New rules that replace the state's criminal background check for all flight students require flight school managers to establish security procedures.
"Many of the steps that flight schools are required to take mirror Airport Watch," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "After AOPA pushed so hard to have the background check repealed, it only makes sense for us to provide the tools to implement the new rules."
Airport Watch is a neighborhood watch for the aviation community. It calls on pilots and airport tenants to be vigilant and report suspicious activities to authorities. The program provides a nationwide toll-free phone number for reporting suspicions: 866/GA SECURE (866/427-3287). AOPA worked closely with the Transportation Security Administration to develop Airport Watch, with the agency making arrangements to staff the toll-free hotline.
Michigan's new law requires flight schools to post signs asking pilots to report suspicious activities and provide instructional materials for identifying those activities. The Airport Watch kit includes the required signs and posters to raise pilot awareness, as well as a training video and brochures to teach them the kinds of situations to be alert for.
AOPA worked closely with the sponsor of the new law, Rep. Stephen Ehardt (R-83rd Dist.), to craft and pass the legislation. Airport Watch provided a model as the bill was being written. Other provisions in the law require flight schools to positively identify flight students or renter pilots, maintain tighter control of access to aircraft, and flight training procedures that ensure close supervision of student pilots. In addition, student pilots must present a valid FAA medical certificate and student pilot license before being allowed to solo.
In a joint letter from AOPA President Phil Boyer and Michigan Bureau of Aeronautics Director Rob Abent to the state's flight school managers, the two write, "Just as AOPA and the Michigan Department of Transportation have come together to provide you with these materials, we hope you will come together with your employees and flight school students to help secure general aviation."