States Tackle Security, Funding

In mid-September, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) met for its 74th annual convention and trade show.

DES MOINES, IA — In mid-September, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) met here for its 74th annual convention and trade show. The organization is comprised of 52 members, representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and Guam. AIRPORT BUSINESS sat down with members and NASAO president and CEO Henry Ogrodzinski at the conference to discuss the organization’s goals for the states, and for the nation’s air transportation system. High on the agenda are general aviation security, funding, and land use, among other issues.

General aviation security remains a priority for NASAO members. Says David Greene, director, bureau of aeronautics, division of transportation infrastructure development for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and NASAO’s 2005 chairman, “Government is not quite sure what it wants to do with general aviation security. What we want to do is beat them to the punch.” Greene relates that it’s imperative that the Transportation Security Administration not impose regulation on general aviation facilities and operators which is not “common sense” and that could hinder their businesses.

In Wisconsin, Greene says the state is working to make sure “we touch on those vulnerable and critical airports.” Following the events of 9/11, the Wisconsin DOT issued to its airports what Greene refers to as a handbook on GA security. The guide encourages operators to lock gates, aircraft, and hangar doors, as well as to know who is boarding aircraft at their facilities.

NASAO’s security committee performed a survey of the states’ airports to gauge where each is in addressing GA security. In his presentation, John Sibold, Washington State DOT, aviation division, explains that 44 states participated in the 2005 NASAO GA security survey. Of those, 26 percent said they have laws or policies governing general aviation security; 60 percent have not conducted a statewide assessment; 57 percent have offered security grants to general aviation airports; and 27 percent say communication with TSA is the single biggest issue. “NASAO should develop a national standard to recommend to states,” says Sibold. “Any regulation is going to hurt GA and smaller airports.”

Ogrodzinski says the organization has been encouraging states to be proactive when it comes to general aviation security, including developing handbooks like those put together by Wisconsin and Iowa.

Iowa’s GA Security Initiative

“We don’t want mandates or legislation,” says Michelle McEnany, director of the Iowa office of aviation and host director of the conference. McEnany explains that her department visited all general aviation airports in Iowa twice — first to educate and create awareness; then to initiate action. She says the success of the program has been in the materials the state has provided to airports, including a security plan template — a CD which allows airports to fill in the blanks to customize a plan for their specific airport. The Iowa DOT also distributed a GA security brochure, a GA security checklist which serves as an action plan for airports, and a quarterly newsletter.

Since the inception of the program, 44 of Iowa’s GA airports have implemented security plans. According to McEnany, the state also provides an incentive for creating a security plan. “I-DOT partnered with the airports to help fund some of the security projects.”

Preserving the System

Appropriate land use around airports is another issue NASAO is closely monitoring. Greene says that includes land within the boundaries of an airport as well as outside the boundaries “to make sure we’re not encroached upon.” NASAO has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with FAA to encourage dialogue on compatible land use. Greene says it’s important for FAA to understand what an airport’s needs are, and even though it is not within FAA’s power to regulate zoning on a local level, the organization would like to see more guidance on the topic which can be implemented nationwide.

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