The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has determined that published reports about GA security, based on a leaked government report, significantly overstated the level of the government's concern.
"One of AOPA's senior staff members was able to review the entire 24-page document during a meeting with the Transportation Security Administration today," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It turns out that the lead story in today's New York Times and all of the subsequent coverage on cable news channels and local news outlets was based on a single paragraph in that report - the only paragraph out of 24 pages that dealt with GA security."
The report, an overview of aviation security developed for law enforcement agencies, was prepared by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. It lays out which agency has jurisdiction over which aspect of aviation security; provides an historical overview of terrorist threats to civil aviation both in the United States and overseas; and outlines criminal activities aboard airliners, including the incident noted in the New York Times story in which a person sprayed perfume from an atomizer at a flight attendant in a hostile manner.
The one paragraph that discusses general aviation security contains no new concerns and no specific concerns. It repeatedly uses qualifiers such as "potential" and "may." It refers to general aviation as an area of potential concern; that terrorists may have discussed using general aviation aircraft in attacks; that terrorists may be attracted to GA airports.
"Every form of transportation - the family car, a water-ski boat, a train, even a GA airplane - has the potential to be used by terrorists," said Boyer. "The general aviation community is aware of that and has major strides to enhance security and reduce risk. That's the reason for programs like AOPA's Airport Watch - a neighborhood watch-type program for general aviation airports - and for the TSA's Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports, which allow airport managers to determine the particular security needs of their individual airports."
" The New York Times and the news outlets that followed its lead have taken a small portion of a report that contained no new information and created a major 'story' out of it," Boyer concluded. "The true nature of this report, which the Times did not report, is to serve as a reminder that everyone in the aviation community needs to remain vigilant."
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 14, 2005