Post 9/11 Next Steps for General Aviation Security

Analysis of what changes could be made

Experts, however, doubt the practicality of such a tactic. Conventional sprayers

on crop dusters or air tankers that are used to fight forest fires, for example,

probably would not be very effective at dispensing biological agents. Mechanical

stresses in the spraying system might also kill or inactivate a large percentage

of particles--by some estimates, up to 99 percent. Nor could they carry

sufficient volume to conduct a significant chemical attack.

As a result, the most worrisome threat from general aviation comes from

using aircraft as a transportation platform. General aviation is a fairly

discrete means to move cargo in a short amount of time over a long distance, and

the security standards for travelers, particularly passengers, is much more lax

than for commercial airliners. While private pilots have their identities and

credentials checked on a regular basis, passengers may not be screened, even

when they fly internationally. On domestic flights, cargo is virtually never

inspected. Drug smuggling demonstrates the potential to exploit the general

aviation sector for illicit activity.

The study believes that the right solutions for making the skies safer

and maintaining a vibrant general aviation sector that has room to grow and

innovate requires principled proposals that address the threat in the most

efficient and cost-effective manner.

A new national general aviation security policy should consider a layered

approach. For example, security measures at flight schools, hangars, and

airports should be organized to screen for possible terrorists before they get

access to the skies. The best way to stop illicit exploitation of general

aviation is to keep malicious actors out of the cockpit. A security program that

works for corporate business jets would not necessarily be effective for small

Cessna planes or hobby aircraft. Programs must be tailored to different types of

aircraft, airfields, and aviation services.

The authors of the report feel that some of the new security measures

that have been established since 9/11 reflect principled security. Others do


One of the first security improvements was the "Airport Watch" program.

Airport Watch is a joint venture between the private and government communities

and was co-founded by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and

Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This partnership resulted in an

elaborate "neighborhood watch"-like program at thousands of local airports

nationwide: a network that includes over 650,000 pilots, as well as airport

officials, who serve as eyes and ears for observing and reporting suspicious

activity to state and local law enforcement.

"Initiatives like Airport Watch provide a decentralized network for

reporting security threats. By making the everyday pilot the eyes and ears at

his airport, it provides an additional layer of security on the ground. It is

also cheaper than training thousands of additional government security officers

and deploying them at airports around the country," the authors stated.

After 9/11, the private sector worked with the Federal Aviation

Administration (FAA) and the TSA to make flight training a more transparent and

secure process. The first step was advanced screening of pilot databases against

the TSA threat watch lists. This regulation was adopted on January 24, 2003, and

means that individuals who show up on TSA watch lists can have their

certificates suspended or revoked.

Another security measure created by many private flight schools applies

to foreigners who are training for pilot certificates. All foreign nationals

applying for flight training will now be subject to a Department of Justice

background check before entering their training programs. A more stringent

screening process is in place for foreigners seeking to learn to fly jet

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