Jan. 22, 2004 - Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), a pilot, AOPA member, and member of the House Aviation subcommittee, says security at general aviation airports has improved dramatically since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"As both a pilot and a member of the Aviation subcommittee, Representative Ehlers knows better than most the efforts that have gone into improving GA airport security," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "He knows what has been done by both the GA industry and the federal government."
Ehlers' comments come in a letter to CBS News President Andrew Heyward concerning a report on GA airport security that aired on the CBS Evening News last week.
In his letter, Ehlers notes, "The general aviation community has worked closely with federal officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to improve security at general aviation facilities."
He also said that although TSA has not issued formal regulations for general aviation airports, the general aviation industry has developed security measures in conjunction with government officials. "For example," Ehlers wrote, "The Airport Watch program, developed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in conjunction with the TSA, provides a system for reporting and acting on suspicious activity and includes signs, literature, and training."
He goes on to note that he himself has been the subject of higher GA security, when the pilot of a GA flight required the congressman to show an ID, even though the pilot knew Ehlers was a member of Congress. The same pilot, he wrote, examined their luggage and checked for suspicious materials.
"I am concerned that your report has provided skewed information to the general public about the potential security threat posed by general aviation," Ehlers concluded. "As with commercial aviation, security has dramatically improved in general aviation, and I am confident that the TSA will continue to work with the general aviation industry to further develop and implement security measures. It is unfortunate that your report failed to include or note these important changes."