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How you can improve GA's public imageHow you can improve GA's public image

How you can improve GA’s public image

New security course en route
to flight schools, FBOs

Thousands of flight schools, FBOs, airport managers, and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers are now receiving important general aviation security information in the mail.

It’s part of an effort by AOPA in partnership with the Transportation Security Administration to give airport personnel tools for dealing with suspicious activity. The packets contain a new interactive course, General Aviation Security , on CD.

“While this online course is a good step, we are counting on the general aviation community to put the principles into action,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “Security relies on many eyes and ears.”

The course is divided into tracks for aircraft owners, renters, flight schools, and FBOs. For flight school and FBO employees, the custom tracks take you through the TSA’s annual recurrent security awareness training.

Adopting principles from AOPA’s Airport Watch Program, the course shows examples of suspicious activity at airports and ways to handle a variety of scenarios.

Because the types of GA airports run the gamut, a one-size-fits-all approach to security doesn’t work. That’s why AOPA’s course contains links to Airport Watch and the TSA’s Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports. With these resources, you can customize the type of security practices you need to secure your aircraft and airport.

If you would like a copy of the course on CD as well as the Airport Watch materials, contact the AOPA Pilot Information Center at 800/872-2672. The packets are free.

By AOPA Communications staff

On the Monday before Super Bowl XLII, AOPA President Phil Boyer found himself in the association’s television studio, defending GA security. This was after a Phoenix TV reporter did another one of those “exposés” at five area GA airports. Complicating Boyer’s job was the fact that the reporter found three unlocked aircraft.

“Beyond the crucial role for general aviation security of Airport Watch’s ‘lock up, look out’ message, public perception is vitally important,” said Boyer. “I can’t compete with pictures of a reporter walking up to your plane and opening an unlocked door. In the court of public opinion, we lose that argument every time.”

Regardless of whether it’s fair or not, GA has been under the security microscope ever since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and will continue to be far into the foreseeable future. The freedom and ease of movement that draws us to general aviation looks, to the non-flying public, like a security gap.

Putting the non-flying public’s fears to rest is up to each of us as individual pilots. Following the tenets of the Airport Watch Program and making sure your aircraft is secured—in a locked hangar or with locked doors or some other visible deterrent such as a prop or wheel lock—can go a long way to allaying fears. Doing so is even more important at major events like a Super Bowl when there’s so much extra media attention.

Not sure what you as an individual pilot can do? Take AOPA’s award-winning online GA Security course, developed by the acknowledged leader in online aviation education, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

“The general aviation community has an important role to play in enhancing security at America’s airports,” said Boyer. “And doing our part in a visible way demonstrates our resolve to the non-flying public.”

January 30, 2008

AOPA Communications staff

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