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When People Say, "GA Is a Threat," How Do You Respond?

September 9, 2011 – It’s a misperception that bothers all aviators: the idea that somehow aviation is a wide-open conduit for terrorist attack or a danger to the public greater than other transportation modes or common everyday items. As an aviation enthusiast, you might be asked about this by friends, neighbors, or local media, especially as the 10th anniversary of the events of 9/11 approaches.

  • The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were a tragedy and a blatant attack on America from those who wanted to create the greatest physical, economic, and psychological impact to our nation. We remember those innocent people who lost their lives in the attacks.
  • Large commercial turbojet aircraft were specifically chosen by terrorists for their destructive capability. Small, personal aircraft do not have the size, fuel capacity, or force to create widespread damage or injury to those on the ground.
  • Those intending to do widespread harm to Americans or our way of life tend to choose the most convenient methods available to make a statement. Experience from around the world shows that this includes automobiles, public transit such as trains or buses, cargo vehicles, and even small items such as backpacks. Aviation is just one item on the list of potential tools that could include almost anything seen in day-to-day life.
  • The Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security administration, and other government agencies have extensively studied small aircraft and concluded that the potential risk from such aircraft is minimal. Thus, federal agencies have created a scaled response to raise the security profile based on the level of potential risk, most often predicated on aircraft size, speed, and open access to the public such as passenger-carrying commercial aircraft.
  • That being said, security has been increased at local airports over the past decade, with everything from new requirements for pilots, fuel suppliers, and flight schools, to additional fencing and coded access gates at airports where appropriate.
  • General aviation is a unique community, since those involved locally are typically well known to each other and a local pilot knows exactly who their passengers are on any given flight.
  • Aviation organizations have created local aviation vigilance and security programs that encourage aviators to notice and report unusual activity at local airports, as well as keeping their aircraft and hangars secured when not in use. These organizations also alert their members when federal agencies announce temporary flight restrictions or other local limitations on flying.
  • Aviation on all levels presents no greater risk than any other form of transportation and is less accessible to the public than most other modes of transit. Security threats should be viewed in their entirety, not simply through one method that may be used, unless a specific threat is discovered.

It’s important for aviators and the public to look at any risk presented by aviation in realistic terms. Aviators also take their responsibilities for safety and security as a high priority at all times.


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