May 17, 2004 - The TSA says that, "The vigilance of airport users is one of the most prevalent methods of enhancing security at GA airports. Typically, the user population is familiar with those individuals who have a valid purpose for being on the airport property." Indeed. That's exactly why AOPA launched AOPA's Airport Watch program in March 2003, long before today's guidelines were issued.
AOPA conceived of a Neighborhood Watch-like program for airports, recognizing that most GA airports are very much like small towns; the "regulars" would quickly recognize people who didn't fit in.
And the association realized that the key to such a program would be a nationwide, toll-free "hotline" to report suspicious activities. So AOPA approached TSA and asked the agency to fund the hotline. Then-TSA Administrator Adm. James M. Loy thought the idea was well worth doing and threw his weight behind it.
While TSA established the hotline (866/GA-SECUR), AOPA committed significant resources to spreading the Airport Watch concept. The association funded and produced the Airport Watch brochure, detailing what pilots could and should do to prevent terrorist activities. That brochure went to every pilot in the United States, as well as other airport occupants such as aviation mechanics and business owners.
The Airport Watch training video has been distributed to airports and pilot groups across the nation, and it is available for viewing on the Web. (TSA has plans for a similar training video that is scheduled for later this year.)
Airport Watch signs and posters are in place at thousands of airports now, reminding pilots to be vigilant and warning terrorists they are being watched.