The Department of Homeland Security Thursday morning raised the threat alert level for aviation to "orange," or "high." And for commercial flights between the United Kingdom and the United States, the terrorist threat level is "red," or "severe." (See the Transportation Security Administration's security advisory.)
Airline passengers will be very aware of the heightened security. For general aviation pilots flying in U.S. airspace, no new security measures are anticipated, although pilots may encounter additional security on the ground at airports with airline service, most likely tighter controls at the airport perimeter and ramp.
"While this latest threat isn't directed at GA, general aviation pilots should still be vigilant for any possible threat," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "This recent event is an example of why we've updated the AOPA Airport Watch security program and reminded all pilots to lock up their aircraft and look out for suspicious activities around their airports."
Enhanced security at air carrier airports may affect ground access on the GA side of the airport as well.
Governors in at least three states, including Massachusetts, California, and New York, have called out the National Guard to help provide airport security, for example. What that means for GA isn't known yet, but it could mean that you may have to pass a security guard or soldier to get access to your hangar or aircraft. Be prepared to show your ID and pilot certificate if asked by a law enforcement or security official.
No procedural or security changes are expected for GA aircraft flying in U.S. airspace. But, as always, you should check notams immediately prior to any flight, even if you are taking just a quick spin around the patch.
Make sure you know the location of any temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) near your route of flight. ( AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner will give you a graphical display of all current and upcoming TFRs.)
Monitor 121.5 during flight (if able). And just in case, download and keep with you in the aircraft AOPA's intercept procedures card.
British authorities arrested 21 alleged plotters who planned to carry some common liquids on board an airliner, mix them in flight to create an explosive, and blow up the aircraft over the Atlantic. The terrorists reportedly were targeting six to 10 aircraft bound for the United States.
So if you're going to fly on commercial airlines, expect intensified searches and much longer waits getting through security. New restrictions on carry-on items have been added: You can't have any liquid or gel in your carry-on bags. The ban includes drinks, shampoo, toothpaste, and hair gels.
Exemptions apply for infant formula and some medications (such as insulin), but be prepared to prove to security officers that the liquids aren't dangerous.
August 10, 2006