Congress has again recognized the importance of AOPA's Airport Watch as one of the multiple layers of protection guarding general aviation airports from terrorist use.
"The Committee continues to support the Airport Watch program and expects TSA to continue funding the toll free number to reinforce security at the nation's 5,400 public use general aviation airports," said members of the House Appropriations Committee in their report on funding for the Department of Homeland Security in fiscal year 2007.
Congress appropriated $275,000 to promote Airport Watch and to continue funding the toll-free reporting hotline (866/GA SECURE).
"This continuing appropriation shows that Congress believes that the proactive effort by general aviation pilots to protect airports is effective," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "And that continued vigilance will help maintain our spotless record; no general aviation aircraft has ever been used in a terrorist attack anywhere."
AOPA's Airport Watch, established in 2003, is one layer of the security screens protecting GA airports. Since the program's inception, pilots have voluntarily "locked up and looked out" at their airports, securing their aircraft from unauthorized use and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement and security officials.
The program works, as some TV reporters attempting to penetrate security found out. And while we can't divulge the details for security reasons, we know that other tips to the Airport Watch hotline have thwarted suspicious actions.
Also in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill was funding to continue operating the loran-C navigation system.
The Coast Guard (a DHS agency) wanted to stop paying for the system since it has largely been supplanted by GPS. However, the House noted that the Department of Transportation hasn't yet signed off on turning off loran, since it is still researching the best ways of providing a backup system to GPS.
President Bush signed the DHS appropriations bill late Wednesday afternoon.
Even though fiscal year 2007 has already started, Congress has not yet passed a 2007 appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation and the FAA. Those agencies are operating under a continuing resolution, which extends last year's budget into the new fiscal year.
Updated: October 5, 2006, 8:11 a.m. EDT