A new pilot program has ended a long-standing dispute over security measures at Colorado’s Grand Junction Regional Airport during which general aviation access was severely constrained and some airport businesses suffered lost revenue, forced relocations, and other hardships.
The multi-stage program agreed to by the airport authority and the Transportation Security Administration has the ultimate goal of removing security gates installed in 2012 and replacing them with less intrusive electronic security measures. In its early stages, the pilot program will allow the gates to be open during business hours; then 24 hours a day, seven days a week; followed by the gates' removal.
AOPA has long supported the airport’s GA community, acting on the local and national levels to help preserve access to facilities and businesses in an era of heightened airport security. The association had called on airport officials, the TSA, and the FAA to work together to explore alternative measures that would allow GA to exist and prosper at Grand Junction, and welcomed the new agreement.
The issues raised at Grand Junction have underlined complications being experienced nationwide by the TSA's “patchwork” of measures to implement a security directive requiring persons with access to commercial-airport operations areas to undergo a security threat assessment and obtain airport identification, among other provisions.
AOPA expressed appreciation to Colorado's two U.S. senators, Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-District 3) for helping bring an end to the security stalemate, said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs.
"Nice work, airport board. You identified a problem and worked tirelessly to solve it," said a local newspaper editorial published Oct. 22. It credited Stephen Wood, vice chairman of the airport authority's board, and a committee formed to address the gate dispute with actions including enlisting the help of the elected officials, who then "exerted the requisite pressure" on the TSA to approve the new security plan.
In 2013, AOPA bestowed Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Awards on Wood and airport advocate David Shepard for their efforts on behalf of Grand Junction’s GA community. The award, presented annually, is AOPA's highest honor for individuals who make significant contributions to the advancement of GA.