Security Hits Headlines ... Again

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With NBC's abortive attempt at undercover security breaches last week, the mainstream media is again casting about for GA security stories and (possibly to their discomfort) finding that security is better at small airports than it was a few years ago. The Burlington Times (near Philadelphia) took a look at the Flying W Airport and found perimeter fencing, security cameras and regular after-hours patrols by local sheriffs but still managed to work in a quote from the 9-11 Commission report that "major vulnerabilities still exist in cargo and general aviation security." Unfortunately for pilots, the illusion of security takes many forms (and often seems to have been granted higher value than "practical" security). One reader wrote to tell us that, in advance of the Republican National Convention in New York later this month, aircraft owners based at nearby Republic Airport on Long Island are being ordered to chain their planes to a big cable that has been strung through the tie-downs. (Perhaps learning to fly an airplane is easier than buying a hacksaw.) Even in commercial aviation, where X-rays, bomb sniffers and the occasional strip search are the norm, U.S. lawmakers are worried it's not enough. Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson was on the hot seat at a Senate hearing last week trying to explain why only one in 20 domestic flights have air marshals aboard. He was also quizzed on why those few marshals have a dress code so strict that they stand out painfully in the casually dressed crowd aboard most airliners.