While viewing areas near some airports may be off-limits, parking next to terminal areas seems to be on the comeback. Monday, AVweb reported on the closing of a popular viewing area at Fort Lauderdale's International Airport (scroll down for "Airport Observation Park Closed.") Officials said that this was an appropriate step in response to the Thanksgiving Day attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner flying out of Kenya. However, at almost the same time, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decided to reopen some of the nation's airport parking garages, which have been closed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While some might wonder why the government now deems garages safe and public parks not, federal officials claim that the level of security now provided within the garage area is adequate for protection from terrorist attacks. TSA officials also made it clear that airports won't have to again close the parking areas during an elevated threat if their plans don't call for that.
...Airborne Missile Defense Unlikely, Maybe...
Right after last week's attempted downing of the Israeli airliner over Kenya, many security experts (and some elected officials) called for outfitting airliners with missile defense systems. However, the airlines aren't buying the idea, especially during this time of economic turmoil. The lowest estimate we've run across for outfitting an individual airliner is in the $100,000-plus range, which doesn't sit well with carriers that, maybe not to the same extreme as United, are already swimming in red ink. Aircraft manufacturers aren't too interested either ... at least not publicly. "We feel it is inappropriate for Boeing to get into any discussion of this issue regarding what we are doing or not doing, what's possible or not possible," company spokesman Randy Harrison said. "It doesn't serve anyone but the wrong kind of people." "There is no easy answer," Airbus spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn said. "This is not a competitive issue. It's never Boeing vs. Airbus."
...And At The Local 'Drome
While we all keep an eye out for someone standing around the airport with a bazooka on his or her shoulder, some of us may need assistance identifying the less-apparent threats. Toward that end, AOPA is putting the finishing touches on its new Airport Watch video. The video will be available for distribution to pilot groups and airport organizations in January as part of AOPA's comprehensive Airport Watch program. The program itself is modeled after a neighborhood watch ... only it aims to enlist some 600,000 general aviation pilots to watch for suspicious activities at airports. The video, produced in consultation with the Transportation Security Administration and other law-enforcement agencies, will dramatize some of the things pilots should watch for. It also encourages those who see suspicious activity to report it to the police or to the national toll-free security hotline -- 1-866-GA-SECURE (1-866-427-3287). An Airport Watch brochure will this month be mailed to all AOPA members.