It’s a New Day
From a former FAA chief counsel, a glimpse of aviation in the aftermath
By J.E. ’Sandy’ Murdock, Partner, Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge
Many in industry know Sandy Murdock as a man who speaks his mind, outside of his daily aviation law practice. He has frequently called upon industry and Washington to think out of the traditional box that is aviation. AIRPORT BUSINESS asked Murdock to offer his thoughts following the tragic events that have brought to the forefront the threat of terrorism. Here are his comments.
• Ask not what your country can do for you, ask now what you can do for your country. — JFK, 1960
• Ask not what your FAA requires of you, ask now what you can do for aviation.
After September 11, 2001, mere compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations is no longer an acceptable standard. Clearly, each of us must seek to exceed those standards.
Historically, paper compliance with the FARs would have satisfied your company, your customers, and the government. Crossing t’s and dotting i’s would protect you from enforcement actions. Today, that is not enough.
A New Daily Life
More is expected of all of aviation by the public — traveling or not. Each and every person in aviation, from the most senior executive to the most junior ramp person, must incorporate in his or her daily routine and procedure a constant passion for security. This attitude exceeds compliance; it goes beyond that level to new realms. Things like ...
• Vigilance on the ramp
Have you seen that person before? If not, does (s)he have the correct badge?
Is someone performing a function in a non-routine way, steps out of sequence, confusion about where or when something should be done?
Question, challenge, observe; examine what is going on. Feel free to report suspicious activities; make mental notes of what is unusual.
• Constant assessment in the SIDA or sterile area
Check to see if that security door is really closed. Praise the security staff when they carefully search your bags. Be supportive of the new procedures when standing in a long line. Observe weaknesses in the system —blind spots, opportunities for human failure, procedures that require reinforcement. Do not be bashful in making suggestions.
Think outside of the box everywhere. When you identify a threat, suggest a solution and support final closure.
At a fixed base operation, suggest procedures that will enhance security, even though no Part 107, 108, 121, or 135 regulation applies. See if some of the procedures can be voluntarily implemented in your context.
Think security. Would the addition of a fence or a spotlight add to the airfield’s or hangar’s security? If yes, try to get such improvements implemented.
If you’re aware of some technology that may incrementally add to security performance, tell someone in your office, at the airport, or in the government about how the new approach can help.
Examine threat paths specifically through your company. Identify methods that are likely to interdict an intrusion. Adopt appropriate countermeasures; if they make sense, and even if they exceed the FAR requirements, do it. Enhanced security will be a measure on which customers will make future selection of your company over others.
Identify the same points of weakness on a macro basis. Define solutions or responses. Implement them and share them with your trade association. Urge them to establish industry-wide guidance.
A New Business Model
Old business practices are no longer relevant. The threat paradigm has changed. Study your business with the horrible, new model in mind. Try to establish new mechanisms that will address the new tools of terrorism.
Customers are no longer likely to accept old practices and procedures as adequate. As in the past, customers will carefully examine your safety record and now will treat your security performance as an equal or greater differentiator. To the extent that an FBO (or any airport business) has adopted a 100 percent search of all bags, a 100 percent screening of all passengers, and a 100 percent review of all employee backgrounds, the customer will likely choose the company over a competitor.
Everyone in aviation has been taught from the outset that safety is the number one priority. The priority associated with safety consciousness cannot be diminished, and now there must be an equal vigilance to security. Everyone should be encouraged to attack this new threat. Performance evaluations should reward innovation and discourage performance at a level below 100 percent.
Public confidence in aviation must be restored in the short term. While the time pressure to meet that goal is severe, the race is not a sprint. Each of us must be ready for a marathon performance — more than 25.2 miles — it is a lifelong goal. Every day we need to seek to increase the level of security in a relevant, productive fashion. Every day we must ask now how we can do more for aviation security and safety.