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Wed, May 12, 2004

Orlando's WESH TV Promoting Wednesday Story About 'Dangers' of GA

It's Ratings Season... So It's Time To Pick On GA

ANN has been monitoring reports that an Orlando based, NBC affiliated, TV station is about to drop the hammer on GA with yet another bit of sensationalism concerning the supposed security risks of GA. Promos circulated Tuesday night allegedly voiced concerns about dangers proffered by Central Florida GA airports and may have equated the danger of GA airplanes to be on a par with that of a cruise missile. The current web site promo is (thankfully) a mite more restrained... "Tomorrow at 11 p.m.: A WESH NewsChannel 2 Investigation reveals major security problems at most of Central Florida's small airports."

We've been in communication with the station... who has promised us that reporter Greg Fox (who is apparently the primary reporter for this piece) would get back to us right away -- and we're still waiting. Nobody else had the knowledge or the time to chat with us about the story.

AOPA's Prez, Phil Boyer, tells us that he did grant an interview to them in Lakeland (last month) and recited the appropriate facts about the small size of GA aircraft and their "small payload/damage capacity." How much of Boyer's interview will be used is anyone's guess -- but we're not optimistic. AOPA tells us that the promo department had promised to tone down their promos on Monday... but the Tuesday renditions still sounded pretty sensational. AOPA did extract a promise that the story will note the FACT that no GA plane has ever been used in a terrorist act.  

Still; AOPA expects the report to be "tough."

Discussions with the producer (Travis Sherwin) indicated that possible features in the piece will include shots of Airport Watch signs, the AOPA program (done in cooperation with, and sanctioned by, the TSA) described as a prime example of "industry and government cooperation to address GA airport safety," by then TSA Administrator James Loy.

There will also be references to the GAO 2003 study that cited security concerns (without, so far, any more recent info such as the inclusion of the TSA 'Top 5' list -- which doesn't mention GA). Other aspects will show at least one person accessing airport and ENTERING unlocked airplanes, without challenge. They also (allegedly) show an empty police car being used as the "security system" at one airport.

Duck and Cover, Folks...

Phil notes that in light of the ratings frenzy we're currently undergoing, that AOPA is seeing "a rash of these stories of late. AOPA is doing the best it can to get the GA side of the story told - but often the reporter/producer goes in with a pre-conceived notion."

We expect that the story may be available over the net via the WESH web site some time after the piece appears at 2300, Wednesday. Greg Fox's email is gfox@hearst.com. The WESH web site is www.wesh.com. Cross your fingers... this could be a tough one. We'll keep you updated...

FMI: www.wesh.com, www.aopa.org

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