As Americans celebrate our independence this weekend, AOPA reminds pilots to fly safely and responsibly to help preserve our freedom to fly.
"Only in America can ordinary citizens learn to fly and then use that skill to go just about anywhere any time they want with little government interference," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Since September 11, security concerns have eroded some of that freedom. As citizen-pilots, we have taken responsible actions, such as our Airport Watch program, to ensure security. And we have been forceful advocates before our government when we believe that imposed measures overstep security needs.
"While we continue to strive to remove the operational barriers frustrating many pilots, we should also look at a chart and recognize that the vast majority of our airspace is as open and as free as a CAVU sky. We should treasure that."
The FBI says there is no specific, credible threat of terrorism timed to the Independence Day holiday, and the threat level remains at code yellow. Pilots should check notams immediately prior to departure on any flight. A security notam was issued for President Bush's July 4 visit to Charleston, West Virginia. Notams were in place for the President's trips to Camp David and Hagerstown, Maryland, and for Vice President Cheney's bus tour starting in Ohio and traveling through West Virginia and Pennsylvania July 3 and 4. ( AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner shows graphic depictions of TFRs.)
The FBI says there is recent intelligence that al-Qaeda has a continuing interest in attacking a wide range of targets, including gas stations and refineries, subways, bridges and tunnels, ports, power plants, dams, and civil aviation.
"The government has recognized that, sadly, any part of our infrastructure is a potential target and is no longer singling out general aviation," said Boyer.
Pilots are asked to watch for suspicious activities at airports, particularly indications of terrorist surveillance such as people photographing security measures. Any suspicions should be reported through the AOPA Airport Watch toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECUR) or local law enforcement.
AOPA reminds pilots that they should avoid the airspace near nuclear power facilities, dams, refineries, military facilities, large sport stadiums, or any large gathering of people.
Anyone planning a cross-country trip whose route of flight passes over or close to an airport would be well advised to call the local flight service station for that airport. TFRs for smaller airshows are often published as local notams. You have to ask specifically for local notams if you are getting a briefing from a flight service station outside the local area.
"Enjoy your freedom to fly, but use common sense," said Boyer. "Understand that some people are still scared of aviation. We shouldn't do anything to reinforce that fear."
July 2, 2004