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Mon, Apr 12, 2004

Boyer Pushes Airport Watch On Capitol Hill

Meets With Oregon Sen. Wyden

AOPA President Phil Boyer met with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to talk about security at general aviation airports. Wyden has been a staunch advocate for tight airline and air cargo security, but Boyer pointed out that air carrier-style security is neither necessary nor workable at GA airports.

"I explained to Senator Wyden that while the Transportation Security Administration dealt with the immediate problem of security at the nation's air carrier airports, AOPA turned its attention and its resources toward addressing GA airports by developing the Airport Watch program," said Boyer. "We invested some three quarters of a million dollars in developing what amounts to a neighborhood watch for our community — our local airports."

Boyer told Wyden that AOPA sent an Airport Watch brochure to every one of its approximately 400,000 members and developed signs and posters to be displayed at thousands of airports all across the country. And he said Airport Watch impressed TSA enough that the agency invested a half-million dollars of its own budget to staff a toll-free nationwide hotline (800-GA-SECURE or 800-427-3287) for pilots to report suspicious airport activity. TSA also agreed to mail Airport Watch brochures to the remaining third of U.S. pilots who are not members of AOPA.

The senator, who understands the importance of GA both to his state and the country, appreciated the simple effectiveness of using hundreds of thousands of pilots to help secure the thousands of GA facilities.

Boyer and Wyden also discussed privatization of the air traffic control system. Wyden has been an outspoken critic of efforts to privatize ATC. Boyer asked Wyden to back AOPA's call for the FAA Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2005 to expressly prohibit new aviation user fees.

The two also discussed aviation issues much closer to home for Wyden. The senator voiced support for GA pilots at Eugene's Mahlon Sweet Field who are trying to prevent the closure of the airport's crosswind runway. Boyer explained that the plan is based on an outdated forecast of air carrier activity in Eugene and wind data averaged over an entire year that ignore prevalent conditions during the winter months.

Oregon is also home to one of the leaders in avionics development — Garmin AT. Boyer explained that Garmin AT had developed an affordable technology that could give every pilot real-time air traffic information in the cockpit while providing air traffic controllers information from areas not covered by radar.

Garmin AT has also developed the first certificated panel-mounted GPS receiver to be able to use the FAA's wide area augmentation system, or WAAS, Boyer told Wyden. Boyer urged Wyden to support continued funding for WAAS, which provides precise satellite-based vertical guidance. WAAS, he said, will open access to potentially thousands of airports during foul weather by providing ILS-like precision approaches.

"Senator Wyden is a very active member of the Senate aviation subcommittee," said Boyer. "This was an golden opportunity to bring some of AOPA members' most important issues to his attention."

FMI: www.aopa.org

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