In an expertly-planned presentation by AOPA for its pivotal
Airport Watch program, ANN's Jim Campbell was the first to get a
definitive straight answer from the head of the TSA as to the
future of the embattled airports of College Park, Hyde and Potomac,
Unfortunately, what he had to say is not likely to
be what we wanted to hear.
Asking for whatever hope the head of the nation's Transportation
Security Administration might give to the pilots who operate from
those airports, James Loy told ANN that there was
not much hope for a lessening of the restrictions,
but did bring up the possibility of a buy-out for at least two of
the airports so that their owners might be able to recoup some of
their losses and make a new start elsewhere. What this means to the
historic College Park Airport, the nation's oldest continuously
operated public airport, is troublesome since that airport is owned
by the Park Service and is not privately owned.
Campbell noted that a look at the logs showed barely two dozen
operations out of the quaint and once valuable flying facility in
nearly a month... and that the airport was "failing fast." Loy,
apparently well-briefed on the situation, noted some sympathy in
the matter but explained that there were no plans to change
the current restrictions that make operations out of those
airports highly restrictive, costly and time-consuming.
The airports in question refuse to accept this. College Park
Airport's tireless Manager, Lee Schiek, seems pretty
displeased with this statement and explains that all they hear from
TSA are "pronouncements... but no discussion."
Schiek (right) strongly believes that there is a
way to modify the present restrictions that not only addresses
TSA's legitimate security concerns but would open the airports up
to more operations... possibly even the use of the fields by
properly cleared transients. "We are the gateway airport to the
nations's capital... there is a history here and a utility that is
just too valuable to destroy. If they actually work with us, I
think they'd be amazed at how well we might work together."
During a short one-on-one with Loy earlier in the afternoon, ANN
mentioned that there seemed to be a justifiable perception that
TSA's communications were all "one-way..." and that the needs and
aims of the Administration might be immeasurably furthered by a
two-way conversation with critically affected parties. Loy admitted
that this might be so and promised to take it under advisement.
We'll see what results... we have hopes.
Not set up to be friendly...
Loy is obviously convinced of the value and necessity of a
healthy GA industry and spoke glowingly of the efforts the industry
initiated with the creation of the Airport Watch program and the
cooperation TSA has started receiving, as a result. AOPA is
lobbying/briefing the hell out of this guy and it appears this
effort is sinking in... but he also (obviously) gets the "bad news"
from non-aviation entities such as the Secret Service, FBI, et
al... whose aviation knowledge is suspect where aero-security
concerns are involved. The sad part of this is that he HAS to
listen to the bureaucrats, and the attention he pays to AOPA and
the GA community is strictly elective.
Interestingly, the DC-3 dilemma seems to have
earned some much-needed sympathy from some high-ranking government
officials--who may ultimately be the only avenue of improvement
left to the three remaining restricted airports. Congressman
James Oberstar (D8-MN), Ranking Member of the
House Transportation Committee, has a strong and unquestioned
aviation background, as well as a passion for flying. His expertise
comes in handy when he makes statements like that he gave ANN
during a short one-on-one interview.
"Those airports (the 'DC-3') are being held hostage by these
rules," he explained, and further indicated "there have to be
Another Congressman, Steven Pearce (R2-NM), was
listening in, and as a pilot and aircraft operator, seemed to be in
sympathy with the dilemma faced by these embattled airports. Both
Congressmen were in attendance to support the introduction of
Airport watch and are proving to be strong and valued advocates for
the GA community. We're glad they're on our side.