Boyer: "Let's Not Give Them (Aero-Critics) Any More
ANN Note: The following
letter was just sent out by AOPA to CFIs everywhere... and it
behooves us ALL to read carefully, consider wisely, and act
appropriately. It is a reminder to CFIs that it's critical that
they do their part to secure airplanes consistent with the
principles of the Airport Watch program. CFIs are encouraged to
pass the message to their students as well.
If you've read the papers lately you know that general aviation
is being threatened. And the truth is, it doesn't have to be. The
fact is, there are a few people in the GA community who are making
it very difficult for the vast majority of law-abiding,
regulation-following, safety- and security-conscious pilots. What's
hurting us doesn't have to happen. And you are an important key in
stopping the threat to GA.
So I'm asking for your help.
You know, I pound my desk in frustration over those few stupid
pilot tricks that make the news and then give the politicians a
sound-bite issue and an opportunity to threaten us with onerous
regulations. And believe me they will take every opportunity they
can. There is an almost irrational fear of small aircraft out
there, and hysteria about what a terrorist might be able to do with
one. Of course, we all know that a half-ton pickup truck can carry
much greater destructive power than a tiny Cessna. But we have to
deal with perceptions, not reality.
Consider what is driving perceptions right now.
It was bad enough when a
14-year-old-kid in Alabama, mad at his parents, stole a Cessna 150
and took it for a joy flight. It was even worse that he found the
keys on a clipboard-inside the unlocked aircraft! "We've never had
a problem before with planes being stolen, so I guess we have been
a little lax in our security," the FBO owner admitted. The story
made national news.
Then an allegedly drunk 20-year-old student pilot and two of his
teenage buddies stole a Cessna 172 in Connecticut for a five-hour
excursion around New York. After first scattering a construction
crew with a low pass, they "landed" on a closed taxiway at the
White Plains airport a little after 4 in the morning. That made
even bigger news.
This is an area that is, not surprisingly, very sensitive to
national security. Several members of Congress have asked if more
security is needed; they are calling for an investigation into the
possibility of general aviation aircraft being used for criminal or
terrorist acts. Meanwhile, Connecticut's governor has ordered a
"security audit" of all state airports; Alabama is about to do the
same, and other states are likely not far behind.
What can we do about it? Secure your aircraft. And make sure
your students, your employer, and the pilots around you, are all
doing everything they can to prevent aircraft theft.
I want you to imagine this: The
local "Eyewitness News" crew sticks a TV camera in your face and
says, "Isn't it true that nothing would prevent a terrorist from
stealing an airplane from this airport?" I can assure you, it has
happened, and will continue to happen at airports, particularly
next month as another ratings period starts.
Think about how much better it will play on the news-and, more
importantly, in public perception-if you can say, "We keep the
aircraft keys in a locked area and only release them to authorized
pilots. We put a throttle lock (or prop chain, or tie-down lock) on
all parked aircraft. We ensure that all our tenants keep their
hangar doors locked. We work with the local police and get regular
"We train every new pilot to be security conscious. And we've
implemented AOPA's Airport Watch program, and we
encourage every pilot here to look for suspicious activity and
report it to the TSA's toll-free GA security hotline
These aren't the only ways to make general aviation more secure,
You can see more examples by clicking
Flight instructors, you have a special responsibility. Your
education efforts now have to extend to security issues, including
consistently and constantly reminding your students and all pilots
about the importance of always properly securing an aircraft. And
if your employer hasn't implemented security procedures, speak up.
Safety and security are and will always be the watchwords of our
But what's most important is that you take action and can
demonstrate that you are taking all practical steps to thwart
And if we don't get everybody onboard? We could be saddled with
new requirements--things that would make it more difficult or
unpleasant to fly. New rules that could frighten away students, or
impose requirements that your employer or your airport couldn't
Let's not give them any more ammunition. Ever. Please review
your security procedures--now--and take any and all appropriate
steps to keep GA safe, secure, and out of the news.
Phil Boyer, AOPA