The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security says general aviation poses a "limited and mostly hypothetical" tool for terrorists. In a report released last month, but first reported by GovernmentExecutive.com this week, the OIG says GA airplanes are too small and the terrorists know that. "Although [TSA's Office of Intelligence] has identified potential threats, it has concluded that most [general aviation] aircraft are too light to inflict significant damage, and has not identified specific imminent threats from [general aviation] aircraft," Inspector General Richard Skinner said. In a podcast interview with AVweb, AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy said the message from the OIG is one that his group has been delivering for years. AOPA President Craig Fuller said the findings validate his and other groups' contentions but that doesn't mean GA can let its guard down. "The report notes that while the threat is minimal, it is not non-existent and that constant vigilance must be maintained, which is why AOPA coordinated with the TSA to develop and implement the Airport Watch program," Fuller said. "We have always done our part and will continue to do so."
The report was requested by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee after a Houston TV crew was able to get into three GA airports and approach aircraft without being challenged. The resulting segment (undoubtedly an "investigation") was entitled "Is Houston A Sitting Duck For Terrorism?" A portion of the OIG's report is titled "Houston Is Not A Sitting Duck For Terrorism." What the TV crew didn't know was that they were under video surveillance, the planes were locked or disabled and access to fuel was controlled. Just to make sure, the OIG investigators went to other GA airports and found the issues raised by the TV report were "not compelling." He said TSA monitoring, normal airport security and voluntary programs created by the GA community provide "provide baseline security for aircraft based at general aviation sites."