Outstanding Effort by AOPA To Enhance General Aviation Airport
part of the public unveiling of their progressive Airport Watch
program, has introduced its Airport Watch training video. The video
is part of the comprehensive AOPA's Airport Watch program to
enhance security at general aviation airports. Airport Watch is a
partnership between AOPA and the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) and is modeled after the highly successful
neighborhood watch efforts.
The Airport Watch training video will be distributed to pilot,
airport, and government organizations. It's also available on the
Internet in streaming video at www.aopa.org/airportwatch/.
"For Airport Watch to work, it's crucial that pilots know what
to be looking for," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The brochures
that AOPA and TSA sent to every pilot do an excellent job of
explaining, but this videotape goes even further. It graphically
demonstrates the types of situations that should raise
The Airport Watch video was produced in consultation with TSA.
Former FAA airport security officials and state and local law
enforcement officers served as technical consultants in developing
the various training scenarios. Some scenes were enacted using
police officers and dispatchers, ensuring the depicted law
enforcement response was absolutely accurate.
The video opens with a message to pilots from Homeland Security
Secretary Tom Ridge. "Keeping our airports safe in this free and
welcoming nation is an enormous challenge," he said. "We all must
watch out for one another. Airport Watch can help."
The video includes four full enactments of situations that would
warrant a call to law enforcement or to the nationwide toll-free
Airport Watch hotline, 866-GA-SECURE (866-427-3287). The hotline is
funded by TSA and staffed by the National Response Center.
AOPA President Phil Boyer introduces each scenario and explains
when to call the national hotline and when to call 9-1-1.
"If there is an immediate threat to people or property, pilots
should call 9-1-1," said Boyer. "And a cell-phone call to 9-1-1
will almost always connect with the appropriate local law
enforcement agency. That's important for pilots to know since they
frequently find themselves at airports away from their home
"If the situation isn't immediately threatening, but there is
something about it that doesn't look like normal aeronautical
activity, the pilot should call 1-866-GA-SECURE," Boyer said. "The
trained watchstanders at the National Response Center will
determine which law enforcement agency should get the
The first scenario on the tape is one in which a call to 9-1-1
is in order. It shows a person trying to force his way into locked
aircraft with what is clearly criminal intent, although it's less
clear whether or not there's a terrorist intent. The scene was shot
at the municipal airport in Danbury, Ct., with the participation of
Danbury police officers. They suggested additions to the script to
show how they'd really respond to the 9-1-1 call. The result is
Other scenarios range from the obvious, a pilot being forced at
gunpoint aboard a corporate jet, to the more subtle, someone
claiming to be a pilot at an airport asking questions that just
aren't quite right.
The "suspects" portrayed in the Airport Watch training video
come from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. "There is no
terrorist type," Boyer says on the video. "Terrorists won't always
speak with an accent or look a certain way. It's what they're doing
and how they're acting that should make you suspicious."
The video points out that pilots should be alert for such things
as unusual cargo or unusual modifications to aircraft. It offers
tips on how pilots can make their aircraft more secure against
theft, and how to make their airports more secure.
The video encourages pilots to maintain and
develop the "neighborhood" atmosphere so common at general aviation
airports. "Go ahead and greet strangers at your airport," Boyer
advises on the video. "It gives your airport the reputation as a
friendly, neighborly place. But friendly doesn't mean no security.
Just the opposite. People intent on doing bad things want to be
AOPA's Airport Watch training video will be widely distributed
and viewed. AOPA is sending the video to some 3,500 airport
directors and managers, 1,400 AOPA Airport Support Network
volunteers, 158 TSA federal security directors, and 50 state
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the AOPA Air
Safety Foundation will be playing the video during their pilot
safety seminars. Those seminars reach tens of thousands of pilots
annually. The Experimental Aircraft Association will distribute the
video to its 800 chapters nationwide. The Civil Air Patrol will be
incorporating Airport Watch materials into its training programs as
The video is available free to any organized pilot or airport
group. And AOPA's Airport Watch training video can be viewed on
AOPA's Web site (www.aopa.org/airportwatch/).
"It's up to all of us to protect general aviation," Boyer tells
pilots at the conclusion of the video.