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Media Advisory: AOPA urges care, caution when selecting aviation security expertsMedia Advisory: AOPA urges care, caution when selecting aviation security experts

Media Advisory: AOPA urges care, caution when selecting aviation security experts

With continued emphasis on aviation security and safety, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association urges news executives and reporters to carefully select individuals who you present to your audiences as aviation experts. Aviation safety and security are especially complex topics. An expert in those areas must have a very broad aviation or aviation security knowledge as well as knowledge in the specific sector of aviation being discussed, such as airline, cargo, charter, corporate, or personal aviation.

While all of these areas have "aviation" in common, the issues can be radically different. To lump even a few of them together - as has been done with increasing frequently since the September 11 terrorist attacks - typically results in a report that is very misleading and/or inaccurate. In our experience - and on the basis of the "experts" that have been appearing in many stories lately, it can be difficult to find any one individual with a comprehensive understanding of all facets of aviation security. It will likely require more than one source to provide a balanced and accurate report regarding aviation.

"Ever since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, aviation security has understandably received a lot of media attention," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Many of the 'experts' who have been interviewed have either had strong security backgrounds or strong aviation backgrounds. But few have had direct knowledge of aviation security. Yet they've been asked to comment on sectors of the aviation industry that they're not intimately familiar with. And making matters only worse, many of their more fantastic pronouncements have been allowed to go unchallenged."

Most recently, after the New York Times published a news story based on a leaked aviation security overview from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, several broadcast outlets aired interviews with a commentator whose stated credentials include significant law enforcement and some airline security experience, but little, if any, apparent expertise in general aviation (GA) security. Yet this particular commentator has been speaking at great length about lack of security in general aviation.

This "aviation security expert" claimed, among many unfounded statements, that:

  • virtually all GA aircraft owners leave the keys in their aircraft;
  • that a Boeing 757 can be started by hitting a switch;
  • that a Cessna airplane carrying 200 lbs. of fertilizer would create the same effect as the 5,000 lb. truck bomb used in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Such statements clearly indicate, in our opinion, a significant lack of knowledge about aviation - and general aviation in particular. Yet these outlandish statements have been served up to mass audiences as coming from an aviation security expert. And worse, the statements were allowed to go unchallenged by experienced, professional journalists.

AOPA has 66 years of professional experience with general aviation and we welcome the opportunity to provide any news organization with a comprehensive understanding of GA security or any other issues related to general aviation. And broadcasters should note that we will soon have a television studio and uplink capability from our Frederick, Md., headquarters.

However, being an association dedicated to protecting the interests of general aviation, we also acknowledge that we have a distinct point of view as we serve our membership. To complement our views, AOPA is developing a list of independent, third-party experts - people without any conflicts of interest - who can address general aviation topics with a high degree of expertise and objectivity.

To set up an in-person, phone or TV interview with an AOPA spokesperson, or for contact information for outside experts, please contact Chris Dancy, AOPA's Director of Media Relations, at 301/695-2159, or by e-mail at [email protected].

The more-than-404,000 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.


March 24, 2005

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