In an effort to demonstrate the effectiveness of cooperative, voluntary airport security practices, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to educate the state's pilots, aircraft owners, and airport managers. AOPA is spearheading similar efforts in a growing number of states.
As part of that ongoing effort, every Pennsylvania pilot will be receiving an AOPA Airport Watch Program brochure and decal, along with a letter from AOPA President Phil Boyer and Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Allen D. Biehler that lists specific ways each individual can improve general aviation (GA) airport security.
AOPA first proposed the idea of a joint letter to State Rep. Gibson C. Armstrong, chairman of the Pennsylvania House subcommittee on aviation, and Pennsylvania Director of Aviation Rick Harner subsequent to a meeting of the Pennsylvania General Aviation Security Task Force, during which concerns were raised about GA security. Both Armstrong and Harner were supportive of the letter and confirmed to AOPA that there are no current plans to adopt any new statewide security mandates.
"It is up to all of us to monitor our surroundings and look for ways we can prevent negative events from happening," wrote Boyer and Biehler. "We each need to do our part to diminish the concerns that every small airplane and small airport could be a terrorist threat."
AOPA and the state have endorsed two simple security procedures that will enhance airport security: Lock your aircraft (ask others to do the same) and use AOPA's Airport Watch Program.
Airport Watch is based on the premise that pilots know their airports and can immediately spot any suspicious activity.
"AOPA's Airport Watch relies on civic-minded pilots like you to be alert to any suspicious activity at local airports, and report any irregularities," wrote Boyer and Biehler. "If you see any suspicious activity around your airport, the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has established a toll-free reporting number (866/GA-SECUR[E]) answered by live specialists at the TSA."
In the future, AOPA will be providing Pennsylvania airport managers with Airport Watch security training tapes, warning signs, and posters. Airport managers should invite based pilots to watch the video and discuss other community- and government-based efforts to secure their airport.
"During these extraordinary times, it's important that general aviation pilots like you take the initiative to show that pilots can, and will, foster security at our GA airports," concluded Boyer and Biehler.
The more than 407,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil aviation association. AOPA is committed to striking a common-sense balance that fulfills national security needs while protecting aircraft owners and pilots from overly burdensome regulations.
November 18, 2005