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TSA chief praises AOPA's Airport Watch, promises to support GATSA chief praises AOPA's Airport Watch, promises to support GA

TSA chief praises AOPA's Airport Watch, promises to support GA

Boyer defends GA security

AOPA President Phil Boyer appeared this morning on Washington, D.C.'s influential WTOP News Radio to answer concerns about general aviation security. Listen to the interview.

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AOPA President Phil Boyer and Assistant Secretary
of Homeland Security for TSA David M. Stone

Transportation Security Administration chief Rear Adm. David Stone today praised the effectiveness of AOPA's Airport Watch program. In a private meeting with AOPA President Phil Boyer, he also pledged more open dialogue between general aviation and TSA.

In the spirit of that pledge, Stone responded enthusiastically to Boyer's invitation to attend AOPA Expo and agreed to be the keynote speaker at the Friday, October 22, general session in Long Beach, California. Stone added that he wants pilots to understand that TSA is not GA's enemy and that the organization is seeking balance between security needs and preserving the freedoms GA pilots treasure.

During the meeting, Boyer personally congratulated Stone on his appointment to the top job at TSA and asked for TSA's support on a variety of issues of importance to GA pilots.

Boyer asked Stone to encourage the FAA to inform pilots sooner about the location and timing of pop-up temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), such as those for presidential travel. Boyer also guided Stone through the tutorial for AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner, which allows pilots to easily flight plan around restricted airspace. He asked TSA to work with the FAA to sort out problems plaguing the agency's system for providing graphical depictions of notams. Stone agreed to support AOPA's efforts to resolve the issues.

"After all, it's in everybody's best interests to prevent accidental incursions into restricted airspace, and the best way to do that is to give pilots the information they need to steer clear of sensitive areas," Boyer said after the meeting.

Stone also offered high praise of AOPA's Airport Watch program, saying that it's an ideal way to protect GA's vast infrastructure and promising to do more to keep GA informed about how the program is working. He even offered an example of its effectiveness. In a recent test of the program, all three of the airports being tested responded to a fictitious threat by calling 866/GA-SECUR[E], the toll-free hotline established as part of the Airport Watch program.

Boyer also used the opportunity to show Stone an article that appeared in today's Boston Globe headlined "Analysts warn of small-plane terrorism threat." After reviewing the article, Stone told Boyer that it did not reflect TSA's view of general aviation.

"I was incensed that this article, like so many others, completely ignored all of the good things that GA has successfully done to promote security, things like AOPA's Airport Watch, the requirement that pilots carry photo identification, and the implementation of TSA security guidelines developed with the help of AOPA," Boyer said.

Immediately following the meeting with Stone, Boyer responded to the allegations in the article in an interview with KPHO television, a CBS affiliate in Phoenix.

AOPA has worked closely with Stone since he first joined TSA's headquarters as deputy chief of staff in August 2003. Stone assumed command of the agency as acting head in December 2004, after Adm. James Loy was promoted to deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate confirmed Stone as assistant secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration last month.

Boyer and AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula personally briefed Stone on general aviation issues shortly after he became acting TSA head.

Since then, AOPA has been in weekly contact with Stone and other top officials of TSA. AOPA represents general aviation in regular transportation security briefing and threat assessment sessions involving representatives from government and various transportation modes.

August 26, 2004

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