Forget Gas Prices, Stupidity Is Killing GA

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These days, anyone who maintains the slightest notion of actual enthusiastic involvement in general aviation needs, above all else, an elevated appreciation of the absurd. Like a connoisseur of fine wine or a collector of vintage European cars, the GA enthusiast has to have a refined, educated taste for stupidity in all of its colorful variety. That this is so is what will finally drive a stake through the heart of flying little airplanes, not high gas prices or user fees.

What could possibly cause me to sink to this level of cynicism? Here's what: As do many airports, ours (Venice Municipal) has a security gate with access via a magnetic security card. So far so good. The first rule—and it's a stupid one—is that you pass through the gate, stop on the other side and wait for it to close. Some people do this, some do it sort of halfway and some don't do it at all. (I'm in the halfway group, I keep the gate in view while I drive away.) The theory is that the terrorist is concealed in the bushes and will dart through the gate when it's open. By waiting, you assure that this doesn't happen. As I said, stupid rule.

The other day, I pulled through the gate and right behind comes another owner in a pickup. I don't know him personally, but I know him on sight and I know his vehicle. He has an airplane hangared a couple of rows from ours. He waves, I see his magnetic card coming out and off I go. A hundred yards later, I'm confronted by the one of the airport workers who waves me aside.

"You hafta let the gate close before you drive off," says he.

"But the guy behind me had his card out. He's in the next hangar row from me," I answer.

"Doesn't matter. You hafta wait. No tailgating allowed," he replies, and drives off.

Now this is best described as multiple, cascading runaway stupidity. First, anyone waiting for the gate to close has committed such a futile act as to not be worth the time or gasoline it takes to do it. Actively requiring the guy behind you to repeat same by blocking him in and then having someone actually take the time to spank you for refusing to play only compounds the idiocy.

Later that day, when we went to the airport café, it got even more absurd. We have a very good eatery on the field—one of the best in Florida. It has an entry door right on the ramp—or at least it used to. The door is still there, but there's a sign on it that forces you to walk about 150 feet through the main entrance of the new FBO lobby. Well, no big deal, I guess. Everyone should walk more. But the irritating kicker is that when you walk through the FBO door, you have to sign in. Then you sign out when you walk back out to your airplane on the ramp. Again, these are acts that have zero benefit. The supposed security isn't worth the value of the ink in the pens nor the effort of the deskwatcher to remind people to do it. These are pointless acts.

Yet we do them. And not only do we do them, we continue to accept more such absurdities in the name of security. Why? We do them purely for appearances, so that we can mollify the anti-airport crowd and show that we actually are serious about this terrorist threat. And we do them because certain of our elected officials retain their grasp on power by peddling the politics of fear and paranoia.

If this sort of nonsense escalates, I don't know how much more it the GA industry will tolerate. All things reach a tipping point and such inconsequential absurdities as these add up to the point, at least for me, that it's just not worth it to jolly along. Minor erosion in our ranks will evolve into wholesale desertion.

I will freely admit that on the scale of irritability over little things, I'm in the 90th percentile. And I know there are those who will say waiting for a gate to close is a small price to pay for the freedom of flight. My reaction to that is this: Screw that. If you own an airplane at a non-towered country airport, you ought to be able to drive your car to it, unmolested by idiots who make up pointless rules and then spend their useless days enforcing them.

Am I wrong here?

Comments (88)

I wonder if the terrorist will sign in when they walk through the FBO? I'd say your points are right on.

Posted by: Dan Faulkner | June 15, 2008 10:47 AM    Report this comment

I agree as well Paul. We have the same rules here in Jacksonville, FL. \

Posted by: John McGlynn | June 15, 2008 8:57 PM    Report this comment

My former airport (a class C with airline service) required us to have security badges (as well as the gate stuff) I was told by another airport tenant as well as by the airport police that a mechanic was working on a GA aircraft on the GA side of the field, didn't have his "airport security badge" (I assume his mechanic's certificate was on his person, but not sure) He was ordered away from the aircraft at gunpoint. Seems pretty ridiculous to me - but I made sure that the gate closed and I had my badge - I prefer not to have a 9mm Glock pointed at me when working on my plane and flying it. Anyhow - I moved from the airport - not because of this but due to a relocation. I don't miss the big airport and big security at all. I do not appreciate being treated as a suspect, I am a proud US citizen and professional aviator.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 15, 2008 9:21 PM    Report this comment

At my home airport which is a pretty busy class D controlled field, several of the gates have card entry from the outside but you push a big button to exit.
I often think to myself, couldn't a terrorist just hop the 6 foot chain link fence and push the button? But I can top that. I travel to MS often to visit family. It's a small non towered airport with a healthy amount of private jet and turboprops. My brother who is based there drives me through coded security gate which is only 3 feet high. I can actually step over the gate without even breaking my stride.

Posted by: MIKE BLAKENEY | June 15, 2008 10:22 PM    Report this comment

Same problem exists at SUA but what do we do about it? Too many pilots just accept this as a sign of the times and are willing to go along.

Posted by: werner bols | June 16, 2008 6:16 AM    Report this comment

At my airport, a class D with airline service, the gate opens automatically for leaving. The rule is every vehicle leaving needs to pull up to the gate, allow it to open, pull through and wait till it closes. Every vehicle needs to do this even if there are multiple vehicles in a line waiting to leave they all are supposed to do the stop and wait procedure. This is ridiculous stupid behavior required by a mindless security bureaucrat that hasn't got anything better to do than think up stupid requirements. I would think that several vehicles could train out in a line with only the last person stopping and waiting. I've heard some people do this. The chances that one of the sherrif's are watching the monitor at the time are slim. Another annoyance is that if the gate won't open automatically you need to use your card and code to open it from a pad on the inside of the gate. A motorcycle will not trigger the gate so you have to get off and mess around with the card etc. It's a pain.

Posted by: Gary Caron | June 16, 2008 6:34 AM    Report this comment

We have seen several times since 9/11 what happens when someone flies a small plane into a building - not much. Even if somebody packed a light GA aircraft with explosives and flew it into a building somewhere, a terrorist could do far more damage at any shopping mall. But now GA has been walled off from the general public. No longer can the youth of America get anywhere near a flight line to look at the airplanes and dream, just as we all did when we were kids. THIS is what will spell the end of GA as we know it.

Posted by: George True | June 16, 2008 6:38 AM    Report this comment

I agree. We have a gate to the hanger area we have to punch in a number code. The great thing is the area is protected by a four foot high fence and to go out you have to enter the same code, but there are other gates open that you can walk in, or around the airport there are open gates that you can just drive in.
We have a newby beurocrate from Homeland Security that is gungho on implementing so many security rules that in this rural area that just make you gag.
What is it that makes the small airports more of a threat than truck stops or mall parking garages? GA is paying the price for 911. I see GA slowly fading away because of the fears of the general population.

Posted by: Joseph Block | June 16, 2008 6:49 AM    Report this comment

When I visit in Tucson, AZ., there is a GA airport that we like to go to for breakfast. They have a more than excellent restaurant. Anyway, after eating we then go thru the airport office and out to the ramp to look at the parked airplanes. That has now ended because of the fear of people stealing airplanes. The airport is a 100 miles or so from Mexico.
Although my wife and I are licensed pilots our 60's age does not make us look too much like thieves.
The rules do not make it any easier or a pleasure for people to want to learn to fly. Airports are looking similar to prison yards.
GA used to be fun, and it still may be, but there is no reason for new people to become involved.

Posted by: GLENN DARR | June 16, 2008 7:04 AM    Report this comment

What is the airport, Paul? I am looking for a good restaurant to fly to.

Posted by: Charlie Schobel | June 16, 2008 7:10 AM    Report this comment

Our airport EHO has a new security fence with automatic gates and keypads. The only problem is the fence doesn't go all the way around the airport. Very effective. Terrorists don't walk, I guess!

Posted by: Ernest Byars | June 16, 2008 7:22 AM    Report this comment

Okay there Paul; I see by your last name that somewhere down the gene pool, your Italian.
That's good, because it seems that Italians have more "common sense" than the run of the mill American made homo sapiens. Case in point. After finishing the flight portion of my check ride for the Flying Club of Roma, at the Aeroporto dell Urbe, in Rome, Italy. The instructor and I happened to be walking by an open hangar, when I mentioned how nice it would be to get a check-out in that lovely Partinavia Twin that was parked in the hangar. His reply was that, since I had flown the Cessna 172 with him, for my club check-out, I was now free to fly anything the club operated. Being 50% American, I was dumbfounded. I queried as to why I would not require a specific checkout in each type aircraft, and his reply was that, "if you didn't know what you were doing in a specific airplane, we have the confidence that you wouldn't fly it without our help."
WOW! Now that was truly inspiring to hear. The club actually trusted your judgment, or, "common sense".
So, you see Paul, if your going to write articles like "Forget Gas Prices, Stupidity Is Killing GA"
please refrain from putting such an Italian spin to it. "We" know what your talking about, but it's going to go right over the top of the average Joe.
By the way, whenever I have been asked to sign in at various airports throughout the country, I always do so with the same name; osama bin laden. Nobody's ever said anything so far.

Posted by: Alex Mello | June 16, 2008 7:38 AM    Report this comment

As my friend Mark Twain once said, "the funny thing about common sense, is that it's not very common."

Posted by: Alex Mello | June 16, 2008 7:41 AM    Report this comment

I have been saying the same thing since 2002 when I got serious about flying. On a positive note I have noticed that most of what I call "McCarthyism Part II" has ended. Some of the rediculous security practices remain, but for the most part small airports are still small airports. I remember at the height of the terrorism scare that it was extremely difficult to operate at the local FBO.I was looked upon by the $5 an hour career linemen as a potential terrorist threat, just like the TSA memo told them they should. It reminded me of the movie "spaceballs". There was a pro law enforcement culture in place. As long as you were in law enforcement then you were definately a good american and it was your mission from god to protect the rest of the world from terrorists and democrats.

Posted by: Brad Vaught | June 16, 2008 7:44 AM    Report this comment

I just recently moved airports and the new airport (KCDN) is unfortunatley still on a security kick and I cant get my own hangar and have been on the waiting list for 6 months. So, in order to get MY AIRPLANE that resides in the group hangar I have to plan way in advance so that it can sit on the ramp unprotected until I get there after business hours. Since many times I fly after work, and they have about the same business schedule as I do. In other words when I get off work they close. I feel that most of the security kick is based on the staff wanting to feel important, possibly being misdirected by management pushing a popular conservative agenda over one that allows pilots easy access to their planes.

I am afraid to say this, and wouldnt have several years ago, but all of the security measures in place would be so easy to circumvent. And that goes for locked gates and the new ADIZ. For you government drones that may read this, I have no desire to break any of the rules in place. Simply a desire to change what I think are archane, ineffective pratices that make America less free under the disguise of "Freedom".

Posted by: Brad Vaught | June 16, 2008 7:45 AM    Report this comment

You don't need an airport,or an aircraft-it's everywhere.Essex County,MA has armed guards with metal detectors,etc. at the Registry of Deeds. Terrorists are known for hanging out in such places.
I once(post-9/11)drove a tractor trailer into a facility where I knew I was parked within 200 yards of one or more reactors,and possibly any number of warheads. My licence and registration were checked.
The vehicle insurance was double checked and recorded.Not a word was said,nor a question asked, about the 22,000 lbs. of fertilizer I was carrying.
Despite the label on the jar,it's mostly about good jobs for the otherwise unemployable.

Posted by: John Waters | June 16, 2008 7:58 AM    Report this comment

At my base the same gate rules apply. Each person needs to swipe their card. The networked computer keeps a log of who entered via that gate and activates the video camera that records the entry onto a hard-disk. Maybe it's the FAA's ADM antidote working on my anti-authority mind set, but this seems reasonable and I don't feel bothered by the security personnel. The information could be used helpfully to thwart avionics theft. Not every criminal wants to crash an airplane into an office building.

Posted by: MICHAEL WIER | June 16, 2008 8:05 AM    Report this comment

As long as there are votes in being 'tough' on terrorism, this sort of absurdity will prevail. The TSA's intrusiveness on everyday life is licensed by your elected representatives. Is there an honest politician anywhere in the US who will denounce this nonsense, and commercial aviation security check nonsense? Until a majority of them do, be prepared to put up with the 'Security Theater'.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | June 16, 2008 8:23 AM    Report this comment

I think you're wrong. These rules are neither nefarious nor oedious - it's simple security. This isn't 1910.

Posted by: Al Secen | June 16, 2008 8:24 AM    Report this comment

Our local airport just finished a three year fence construction project. The eight foot chain link fence, topped with barbed wire, is nearly four miles long. The airport is bordered by vineyards, woods and open farm land. We also are protected by a mandatory three separate lock rule, ID badges and additional hangar security regulations. Then there is the required annual security awareness training. Don't forget the flight training security screening requirements, identification and record keeping. All of this for an airport that is in Class G airspace. Terrorists beware! What ever happened to good old common sense? Obviously our fearless leaders don't think we have any.

Posted by: Gordon Young | June 16, 2008 8:29 AM    Report this comment

Right on, Paul.

It's completely understandable, though. Politicians are trying to maximize appearances for the lowest cost, and the more irritation they can create, the higher their profiles. It's all for security, of course -- their job security.

Posted by: Tim Kern | June 16, 2008 9:04 AM    Report this comment

When looking at many of the security regulations and procedures, I wonder if the people implementing them are following the advice, of the robot, from the television show Lost in Space: “If in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout”

Posted by: Douglas Manuel | June 16, 2008 9:09 AM    Report this comment

All this waiting for gates, flashing badges and other nuisances may indeed be a pain where a pill cannot reach, but if you really want to have a reason to get worked up, have a look at what the CBP/Homeland Secuity people have cooked up for GA flights to and from the US. Earlier this year a NPRM was published that included having to get permission to take off FROM the US. Since when does a US citizen have to get permission to leave the country? It gets worse. Entering the US, you have to wait for an email that gives you permission to take off. No email access? Too bad! Your name is similar to some person on a watch list? Who are you going to call? Obviously the terrorists among the GA population are going to play along with these requirements. The pilot is responsible for gathering all the required and extensive info on all occupants of the aircraft, and submitting it along with a fee. A trip in a 4-place aircraft could incur a $100 fee for the trip. This is a user fee in sheep's clothing. Homeland Security says that there will be "seamless" integration of this system, and by their own calculations 1 trip per year will be refused. This is the type of thinking that will doom GA. Then the gates can be left to rust away.

Posted by: David MacRae | June 16, 2008 9:18 AM    Report this comment

There is a great website run by the guy who has a private airfield inside the D.C. ADIZ: Many of his customers are the real security folks, not politicians. He correctly mentions that there are only two things required in order to assure security in the national airspace system: First, positive identification of everyone in the air. Second, a commitment to blast anyone who is unidentified into little bits. There ya go. Anything else doesn't matter.

Posted by: Tim Busch | June 16, 2008 9:47 AM    Report this comment

I've been lucky, so far. Our local airport out on the prairie has no fence and no gate. We have a few small jet ops each week and a very light load of mixed piston and turbine traffic. I enjoy being able to drive to the hangar (I park inside when I'm gone for the week). I recently landed at a similarly-sized airport in my state with the 8-foot fence and a padlocked gate. I had to lug all my luggage over a block just to get from the parking ramp to the walk gate. I cannot imagine the insane amounts of money that we are spending on fencing and gates while runways and taxiway surface deteriorate. I am told that with the next round of 'improvements' at our own airport, we are going to get our fence and locked gate and that we will no longer be able to drive to our hangar. This is sooooo silly. Any terrorist could have had full access to the airport I recently visited with a $15 bolt cutter (or a $2 wrench if they wanted to take a bit more time). Stupidity is exactly right......

Posted by: Mark Wismer | June 16, 2008 10:02 AM    Report this comment

While I cringe at the stupidity of these security guuys, my brother is one wow, I look at the alternative when I take an airline flight. It's pathetic that I can fly my skymaster from Dallas to LA as fast as I can get there on an airliner.
The security guys want to lock everything up so it can't be use to harm us, of course we can't use it either. The hacks we elect as politicians enjoy hiding behind the security. Look how safe the guys at FSDO are hiding in their appointment only offices.

Posted by: Jack Wybenga | June 16, 2008 10:45 AM    Report this comment

I wholeheartedly agree! Security is generally stupid and wasteful. It is fundamentally unproductive - probably anti-productive. Let's all try to pare it back to the bare minimum.

Posted by: JON CARLSON | June 16, 2008 10:56 AM    Report this comment

No you are not wrong here and good job writing about it!

At one airport I fly to regularly (DRT) the FBO's are not close to the fence. My Brother-in-law can no longer get into he airport to pick me up. Period. No entry unless you own a plane.

So no you are not wrong, in fact I have to add, a little ranting is what I have missed about Avweb since the ownership/editor change a few years back.

Avweb had become way too safe in it's editorship. It's very nice to see you getting out there on the edge a little once again.

Posted by: Robert Johnson | June 16, 2008 11:01 AM    Report this comment

I live on a fly-in community surrounded by airplane lovers along a beautiful 1/2 mile grass runway close to Valley Center,Ks. I used to worry about noise complaints from local neighbors,(which have never happened), but now I worry more about the so called security idiots in our runaway government that would like to make us put a security fence around the place complete with guard house just to keep us safe!

Posted by: Doug Moler | June 16, 2008 12:37 PM    Report this comment

This is nothing new. "Security," has always been about the "perception" of security; not actual safety. Take the Emergency Broadcast System from the '60s. If a nuke was heading inboound, do you REALLY think the radio dude was going to hang around and give you "news and official information." Of course not. It was all about making you THINK he would.

Posted by: BOB COLLINS | June 16, 2008 12:53 PM    Report this comment

No Paul you are not wrong. You thoughts & input are well taken. The amount of money that has been spent,and ridiculous procedures that have been established at general aviation airports in the name of security is out of control and a big waste.

Posted by: Dick Devaney | June 16, 2008 2:46 PM    Report this comment

I hear from Julie (AMTRAK’s automated ticket agent) that merely by purchasing a ticket to ride on the train you now agree to be searched, even though you may not actually get searched. Apparently they had a real problem with terrorists hijacking Amtrak trains and flying them into office buildings. Go figure!

Phil Boyer is MY President, and he tells me that none of our fellow aviators have actually been shot down (yet), though who among us really knows how many have been relocated to Guantanamo?

I have to wonder what would happen if 5,000 or more of us would simultaneously fly our aircraft into the DC ADIZ in an organized trail around (underneath) each of the (original) DC Class B airspaces for a couple hours (in the same direction for real safety, like the congo line for EAA Oshkosh) as a monumentally public display of civil disobedience. They can’t carry enough ammo in a single sortie to shoot us all down! We’d prove that general aviators are not terrorists, even before we’ve been fingerprinted and strip-searched at gunpoint.

Remember folks, under the patriot act, an enemy combatant is anyone the President of the United States says is an enemy combatant, and you just might not live long enough for the Supreme Court to remember why they are there.

Ben Franklin was so right when he said: "Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | June 16, 2008 3:18 PM    Report this comment

The best way to tolerate this stupidity, is to have fun with it.

When signing in, sign as "alahu akbar, mecca, Saudi Arabia".

or even more fun. "Muhammad (no last name, like "madonna", Mecca, Saudi Arabia".

Remember, there is no law that you have to be truthful when you sign in. And since (heres the real absurdity) nobody will ever actually read the sign in logs, you get to enjoy your joke privately)

Posted by: Don Mei | June 16, 2008 3:29 PM    Report this comment

another absurdity is common at many airports. when you leave the tarmac you push the button that releases the magnetic lock. When yo go through the fbo, the guy tells you the combination to get back in.

That gate has had the same combination since september 12 2001. Osama binLaden himself knows the combination. Not that he'd ever do anything with it. Its a lot less hassle to just rent a 35 foot ryder cube truck, fill it full of 50,000 lbs of fertilizer and kerosene and park it in front of rockafeller plaza at rush hour. Not even a CDL is required.


Posted by: Don Mei | June 16, 2008 3:33 PM    Report this comment

We elected this crowd. This is what happens when politicians get elected by scaring you more than the other guy.

Posted by: Bob Collins | June 16, 2008 4:18 PM    Report this comment

Shortly after 9/11, commenting on the absurdity of the so-called "anti-terrorist" measures being undertaken at airports everywhere, both big and small, one of my students put it best: "It's like locking the barn door after the horses got out, and blaming the chickens!"

Posted by: Jane Carpenter | June 16, 2008 6:43 PM    Report this comment

Even at the smallest airport that may have one commercial flight, it seems that the only way to exit the ramp or return to your aircraft is to pass though the FBO for security reasons. I don't mind doing so that much, but now all of those FBO's are starting to charge a 'fee' to use their FBO. It is like the government closing a perfectly good bridge so that everyone has to use the new toll bridge that nobody wanted to start with.

Posted by: DAVID THIGPEN | June 16, 2008 9:15 PM    Report this comment

flew to an uncontrolled field las tweek just west of PHL class B airspace - a busy field with very busy avionics repair shop ---- the field has NO security fence - planes are parked next to the road ------ why is airport security so random around the country

Posted by: joel jaffe | June 17, 2008 7:52 AM    Report this comment

I agree that KVNC has gone way nuts over security. There are 2 good resturants on the field, the Cockpit Cafe and the Honoluana Grill. the cafe had a very good fly-in following unitl the FBO took over the rest of the building they are in and started hasseling people about signing in and out along with closing the ramp entrance to the resturant. They also rquire anyone not flying a jet to park halfway down the airport and walk.

The gate to the Honoluana require a card to go through either way. If the resturant manager is available he will run the gate for you.

However, in defence of the Venice airport management, remember this was the location fo the school that trained sevel of the 9/11 terrorists. so it makes sense that they might be a ;littlew paraniod.

Posted by: James Hiatt | June 17, 2008 9:53 AM    Report this comment

Airport security is random because if there are no scheduled flights, any kind of security is optional. As it should be. '

Lets be realistic here. Why is a terrorist going to go through all the expense of breaking into an airport, stealing a plane and then attempt to fly it into something.

Any terrorist with half a brain would simply BUY a plane on credit. Then rent a private T hangar. He would then be a legitimate member of the airport community with all the id cards and pass codes he needed.

he could then modify the aircraft at his leisure in the privacy of his own T hangar.

I dont believe that a small airplane is a good delivery vehicle, but lets face it, if a person owns a plane and rents a hangar, there is nothing you can do to stop him from converting it into a cruise missle.

That is the risk we take in a free society. To change anything would be to give up much more than we risk.

In a free society, terrorists have an easier task than in a totalitarian society.

I'm not even religious and I say a prayer every night that Americans understand that this is not just about safety, but about freedom.


Posted by: Don Mei | June 17, 2008 9:54 AM    Report this comment

43 prior comments, plus the original blog entry and _not one of them supporting_ the "security rules" as even marginally useful. Perhaps someone from DHS who makes the policy that gets crammed down the throats of the airport managers ought to take a good look at how little is accomplished at such a great expense (read that as collosal waste of money) and start rescinding some of this ridiculous paranoia - oh wait, if they did, perhaps they would be _out of a job_. Government's job one: ensure the propogation of the government. Sounds like a cancer cell's motto: "Growth for growth's sake".

Posted by: R. Gilligan | June 17, 2008 10:24 AM    Report this comment

Vote with your credit card! Avoid buying Avgas at FBO's with ridiculous security procedures, and make a point of telling the FBO owner why! On cross country flights,when you encounter an FBO with this un-GA-friendly nonsense, make a comment on AirNav! People read those comments and often plan accordingly! Put some economic pressure on FBO's that gouge GA with unnecessary fees and pointless security procedures that don't do anything to prevent terrorism.

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

Don't let that "small group of committed people" be those 19 homicidal terrorists! WE are the "small group" and we can be equally committed to preserving our freedoms.

Posted by: Jane Carpenter | June 17, 2008 10:52 AM    Report this comment

Wow! While Paul seems to have a handle on the Stupidity of government negatively impacting GA I am shocked that your readers blame the FBO for contributing. The FBO has no say or power to impact even their own business, much less the airport environment. FBO's (like all of general aviation ) have no power. We know we discourage people every day with inane rules and policies, but get real... between the Federal, State, County & City we are not in control of anything at the airport. FBO's do as we are told. The government is in control of this industry. OH Yeah! Stupidity is a pre-requisite to trying to make a living in the aviation business.-- John Lotzer

Posted by: John Lotzer | June 17, 2008 12:04 PM    Report this comment

Tend to agree if security has a question about a person's validity of being on the airfield, ask to see their drivers license and pilots/mechanics license. No need for special badges and sign in procedures. Security should make rounds, which is a bigger deterrent for those who wish to do harm and feel free to ask to see aforementioned ID. This will also keep the politicians away from airports as most of them don't have licenses.

Posted by: Walt Bogaardt | June 17, 2008 3:39 PM    Report this comment

God, chill out dude, you got stopped by a petty idiot, a Cakewalk Commander, a Sunday Sidewalk Supervisor. A self appointed vigilante. You're just ranting because some line boy fool gave you a hard time. Of course what this individual said to you is stupid and indefensible. Don't make it into a mountain.

Posted by: Michael Matthews | June 18, 2008 1:57 AM    Report this comment

As the guy who produced the "Airport Watch" video for AOPA, I feel somewhat responsible for your rants, but making sure the gate closes before we drive off is a small price to pay to keep those knee jerk reaction fools from trying to do something stupid like adding military guards to the gate. Just relax Paul, it's really a small price to pay without really giving up any personal freedoms. And this to shall pass.

Posted by: Steve Kahn | June 18, 2008 4:19 AM    Report this comment

Paul -

I quite agree. You've stated it perfectly .... but why do I need to enter my username and password to comment here? Security ?

The idiocy of "security" is that those who preach and those who follow a culture of fear have become "believers" who are unswayed by logic, empirical evidence, or common sense. Their behavior parallels that of religious faith healers and their followers.

All this BS is driven by TSA which is a mega bureaucracy created and empowered by frightened polictians (not leaders or statesmen). Bureaucracies are like mold, once started it's nearly impossible to irradicate or control.

I believe our ONLY hope is in the next presidential administration AND a massive uprising of citizens who will stop writing in blogs and start writing their senators and congressional representatives.

Ted Stanley, West Tisbury, MA

PS - Another example? I can taxi my plane to a runup pad but I can't drive my van to the same spot to repair a disabled aircraft without an escort.

Posted by: Ted Stanley | June 18, 2008 4:53 AM    Report this comment

I find Larry Burrows' and Steve Kahn's comments worrying. They both (to paraphrase) suggest that we should just hunker down and wait for the present idiocy to pass, not get steamed up about it. The problem is, the 'security theater' being imposed on GA has no cost for those imposing it on an unwilling population. So there's no reason to believe that it will 'go away'. More likely, it's a ratchet: we continually give up small slices of personal freedom until what's left is a totalitarian society.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | June 18, 2008 7:38 AM    Report this comment

Ceri is right. When can you remember a government actually voluntarily relinquishing power?

Posted by: Tim Kern | June 18, 2008 7:43 AM    Report this comment

A corollary to this "insecurity" silliness is the driver's license requirement to board a commercial flight. If you or I lose our license in a distant state we have a huge problem getting home because we can't ride a plane or rent a car. But a driver's license would hardly be a problem for an international terroroist. Once again we all suffer so that we can pretend we are safe. The longer we persist in this foolishness, the harder it may be for citizens to recognize the folly.

Posted by: FRED STADLER | June 18, 2008 7:57 AM    Report this comment

It makes sense. In order to understand though you have to make a mental shift. It's not about Terrorism, it's about power and control. The purpose of the excersise is to create the impression that our government is taking care of us and of course they need more money from us to do it.

If you think this doesn't work, you should see the pensions of those that administer it get. It works perfectly.

Posted by: Ricardo Rammos | June 18, 2008 8:18 AM    Report this comment

We fly into a small airport in the southern Rockies a few times a year to visit family. They recently installed a gate and fence. It doesn't yet go all the way around the airport, but that is another story. The funny thing is the gate has a sign next to it that says something like, "use common air traffic frequency to open gate (122.8)". I figured it was like the runway lights, click a few times and "open sesame". But then I thought to myself, wait, if I key the mike on my plane to open the gate wouldn't it always be opening and closing as airplanes were flying around the pattern? Plus how was I going to get to my plane to open the gate with the radio, if I was outside the gate?

I was thinking way too much for airport security. I discovered that the code that you had to punch into the gate keypad was "1228". Therefore the secret code to get into the security gate was printed right next to it. Pretty handy for us general aviation hoodlums. I'm glad the terrorists are not smart enough to figure this one out. Oh wait! I just told them. Rats!

Posted by: James Fitzgerald | June 18, 2008 8:42 AM    Report this comment

"Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither." Benjamin Franklin (Paraphrased)
"This is the Government, we don't use common sense!"
Civil Service GS12 Hill AFB (Exact Quote!)
"Secure boarders would lead to trustworthy citizens"

Posted by: Andy Medley | June 18, 2008 8:53 AM    Report this comment

Another ironic aspect of this whole situation is, those that have or would attack our freedoms and otherwise create havoc and hassle in our society are actually winning in the long run! Courtesy of the very ones that claim to be on our side. That's what I don't understand. Our authorities needlessly compromise the very things they are charged to protect.

Posted by: ANDREW TOMPKINS | June 18, 2008 9:05 AM    Report this comment

The head of security at KJFK commented to a NY aviation group a year or so ago that the security there was like putting a heavy steel barred door with the best locks and surveillance cameras on the front door of your house and having nothing but a screen door around the back at the kitchen. It is indisputable that most of the security at GA airports is politicians' obfuscation of their impotence, and economic boondoggle for those providing it, a nuisance to those who have to deal with it, and a joke to those who would evade it.

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | June 18, 2008 9:42 AM    Report this comment

Paul is correct it is out of control and getting worse. Sounds like DVT (Phoenix, Deer Valley) is similar to Venice. The only positive spin I can put on it is that I went back to my hangar about 10 PM a few nights ago to get something I had forgotten in the plane and before I could get in and out again there was armed response to make sure I wasn't doing something inappropriate. Given theft in Southwest, whether for terrorism or not, this is a benefit but it is a slippery slope.

Posted by: ROBERT MITTELSTAEDT | June 18, 2008 11:23 AM    Report this comment

This is just more "nannyism". Our government "leaders" (especially at the local level) feel that they should be involved in all aspects of our personal lives from when/where we can fly to where we can smoke (I don't). Expect more of the same as we continue to trade freedom for "security".

Posted by: DUANE DAVIS | June 18, 2008 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Government stupidity and blind obediance to the technical order of laws has been around a long time. About 10 years ago the city fathers replaced the data entry key pad at the airport gates of the Camarillo, California airport with keypads that had Braille dots--I haven't figured out whether they were concerned about the blind drivers or the blind flyers. But the point remains--it's much easier for a government to cleve to the letter of the law than it is for them to figure out how to comply with the spirit of a law.

Posted by: STEVEN ELLS | June 18, 2008 12:14 PM    Report this comment

lock and secure every 1600 pound C-172 but allow millions of tons of shipped container cargo to enter US ports uninspected

Posted by: Elliott Meisel | June 18, 2008 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Think all this is bad, just wait until they get the new hardware in your airplane that sends out your N-number, altitude, speed, location, etc. every second. The FAA will correlate this information with type of airspace, local weather, terrain elevation (etc.) of the location where you are flying and just automatically fine you or pull your ticket if the computer says you are breaking a rule. And since flying is a "privilege" it will be up to you to prove you are innocent. Then tie your flight information into your medical records, access to which the government will justify by saying the folks on the ground need to be protected medically unsafe pilots (remember, being a pilot is a privilege!) and you will have real fun. Welcome to the brave new (very safe), world. Folks, you haven't even begun to see where this is going. In places like China computer surveillance technology (with the help of American companies) is beginning to be used in ways that are very dark and scary. Undoubtedly there will be folks here in the U.S. who will think this is just fine and will push for its use here to "keep us safe".

Posted by: Alan Cossitt | June 18, 2008 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Thomas Jefferson once said, "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty ...

I ask who fears whom now?

Posted by: Ken Thompson | June 18, 2008 12:46 PM    Report this comment

well, this time I agree with paul and his blog. but I think everyone is missing the point. The things GA does to help out absurd as they are, they do keep the TSA off our backs. Beleive it or not...the TSA had the grand plan of making every airport airline style security; screeners, metal detectors, and the whole lot. This is something that was done so that the TSA leaves us alone. It doesnt help that a GA plane has never been used for a terrorist attack, nor the useful load to carry out said attack, but that doesnt matter. In the wake of 9/11 the public has become fearful, that same fear got bush back into the white house for 4 more years of nonesense and vacations. So unfortantely as annoying as these measures are, if they arent in place, the TSA will be, and I can guarantee you all, that the TSA will be alot more inconvenient, and USER FEES will be inacted to pay for this new airline security at every public use airport. Sometimes you just have to see the forest for the trees...I beleive it was paul that said if you dont want sand thrown at you dont play in the sand reference to the MOA intercepts of a pilatus and a beechjet. Well Mr. Bertorelli, if you cant handle the sand, get out the box. These are things that are necessary to avoid something far more terrible.

Posted by: rob haschat | June 18, 2008 1:44 PM    Report this comment

This all sounds a bit like road rage to me. I live in California and fly a C310R out of San Jose international. We have razor wire, badges that must be visible at all times when on the field, four Police cars inside the airport boundary 24/7 and mandatory security testing each year. I admit I have experienced some of the frustration and irritation that most of you portray. While exasperating as it may be, I prefer the overcooked security measures to no security at all and the free access to my aircraft that the lack of security provides. Last week-end I flew to a small public airport along the Northern California coast near Sea Ranch. No security, just the kind of country airport we all loved to hang out at as kids. Someone siphoned 40 gallons of fuel from my aircraft and left the left main tank near dry. Fuel theft has begun and with the ever increasing cost per gallon it will increase in frequency. Soon, all airports will need better security than they presently have. Nothing is perfect but when it comes to security too much is better than too little in my book.
Make sure to do your pre-flight checks..

Posted by: Terry Wilson | June 18, 2008 4:21 PM    Report this comment

I made my comments to reflect on how the Australian government, in a country indirectly affected by terrorism (the Bali Bombings), exhibits some of the same fear and paranoia that Paul mentioned. And you're right, it saddens me to see so much energy expended aginst an unquantafiable threat. After all, old age will eventually kill us all, and no amount of legislation or enforcement will stop that happening.

I'm not a US citizen, so I won't presume to comment on what happens in the USA, a country where I've lived, worked and travelled with as much pleasure as in my native Australia. I was hoping to draw a parallel and show that citizens of other countries are affected to a greater or lesser extent by the atrocities that started with 9/11. Equally, their governments and officials have reacted with more (and sometimes less) common sense. The reality is that we all have to be vigilant, both about terrorism, and about governments trying to overly interfere with our libertes. It has always been thus.

Posted by: Laurence Burrows | June 19, 2008 12:45 AM    Report this comment

Mr Bertorelli, what you describe seems to be a small effort to create a safety program, I tend to a gree with you that it seems trivial. The person that pointed ou to you about proper procedures on the gate was correct to do so. AS some of the comments above point out, it is not only terrorist that we must worry about, but also unwanted people, as gas siphoners an such. It is very easy to critizice procedures we do not like, as compare to sugesting a better way to perform those procedures.

Posted by: Alberto Rodriguez | June 19, 2008 6:35 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Paul, finally someone with common sense.

Posted by: Matt Fowler | June 19, 2008 6:56 AM    Report this comment

The real problem with all this nonsense is the lack of a definition of security. Here's mine: This nation will be secure when our domestic criminals cannot escape their prisons and foreign criminals and their weapons cannot cross our borders." If you don't have a definition of what it is that you are attempting to achieve, you will end up with precisely the nonsensical, uncoordinated government bureaucracy that we have now.

Posted by: Bill Marvel | June 19, 2008 9:31 AM    Report this comment

Ga security is a non-sense. As lots have comments here have said, it's about APPEARING to do something.

You will NOT stop a determined terorist.... a chain mail fence?? Wow, I'm sure thats going to stop him for all of 60 seconds with power cutter.

You have to remember that politicians in the current climate live and die by pushing fear. Appear soft on terror and no matter how stupid the proposed rule was, you will not "look" good to the public.

Unfortunately, until the "war on terror" (what ever that actually means) is won, all we'll be getting is more of the same. Cutailment on our freedoms for zero true benefit.

Posted by: Lance Haysom | June 19, 2008 10:02 AM    Report this comment

a determined terrorist will just buy a plane on credit and rent a t hangar. Much easier and less risky.

We have a nice picket fence around my airport. Very pretty.

Posted by: Don Mei | June 19, 2008 10:17 AM    Report this comment

and what is all of this doing to future pilots? a younger kid looking to fly at his\her local airport can only see ops from behind a tall (from their perspective) chain link fence? is this how an aspiring pilot should be introduced to a whole new world of flying? sorry to stray from the bulk of this conversation but i am happy i had the privilages of walking out on the field where i learned to fly without having a rent-a-cop or government mule telling me to either flash a card or i.d

Posted by: MICHAEL SULLIVAN | June 19, 2008 11:58 AM    Report this comment

In the old days personal recognition trumped plastic cards and such, especially if that person was important in someone's eyes. Asking a General Officer for ID was unheard of. Apparently that is still true. I recently witnessed an open airport gate with a skycop vehicle nearby. A few minutes later a convoy of about six vehicles rolled right on thru. A little observation revealed that the Hubby of a presidential candidate was in one of the vehicles. So exceptions to the 'no convoy' rule are available. Ask to be part of the exceptional group.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 19, 2008 12:22 PM    Report this comment

Our frustration is apparent. However, there are less than 1 million (active licensed) pilots in the US. Politicians and bureaucrats know the numbers: Pilots may vote, but what percentage of the total. Plus, the media sensationalize any potential discrepancy so the 'unwashed masses' are fearful. WE know the problem; what is the solution? Government IS a cancer, sucking the life out of productive America.

Posted by: JJJ C | June 19, 2008 12:32 PM    Report this comment

At our airport (has Regional air service) they have fenced all around the whole place - gotta be 6 miles or MORE. Key cards for the fence gates - MINE only works on the two closest to my Hanger. They got rid of the keypads that had BRAILE on them - for the 'visually challenged pilots' I assume!

Posted by: Bill Howard | June 19, 2008 12:36 PM    Report this comment

i think in any case, no matter what we do , people will find another way to get "around" things. Car manufactures impliment new security features all of the time, someone always finds a way around it, point being made, no matter what "security" measures we impliment, someone (if they want it bad enough) will always find a way to beat the system or to get around things.

Posted by: MICHAEL SULLIVAN | June 19, 2008 12:38 PM    Report this comment

One would think that security measures would at least equal, but not exceed, the threat. So what is the threat at airports? Fuel and avionics theft? Theft of the plane for nefarious purposes? It seems there are simpler solutions than some are experiencing. IMHO the problem is too much money: Some airport managers have apparently gotten grants for far more money than is necessary so they write gold plated security plans that justify rentacops, gates, fences and procedures with wild abandon, all approved by an airport board afraid of being labeled anti-security and hey, it's more jobs: Who's against more jobs? So think of it not as security but welfare: What else would those folks be doing if not harassing you?

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 19, 2008 1:01 PM    Report this comment

My airport's idea, code into pad--changes 4 times a year-however in event of emergency common code for " emergency "services is , are you ready for this, 911 !!! "Course every body knows and the "9" and "1" pads are dirty on the keypad. Airport management --too bad pay not reflected by I.Q.

Posted by: mark schoening | June 19, 2008 1:57 PM    Report this comment

The real problem here guys is the people writing the rules have not a clue as to how an airport operates. They are neither pilots, mechanics or any other form of essential personnel that runs the day to day operations of a General Aviation Airport.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, a local Airport Authority Board Member of our towered GA airport wanted to find out for herself, how security was. So ( GET THIS ) she put a roll of quarters in her pocket, walked around a fence near a ramp and right up to a couple loading their Piper Malibu and showed them the roll of quarters saying" If this had been a gun, you'd be in real big trouble now."
Of course she took this "incident" to a board meeting and wanted answers as to "how a private pilot can just hop in an airplane without first being screened for hidden rolls of quarters!"
By the way, she is still the one writing SECURITY PROCEDURES for the board to this day.
It's these types of people as Paul alludes to, that must just get out of the airport security business altogether. Let's commit ourselves to go against the current insanity and make common sense approaches to enhance airport security and safety for everyone. But it's going to take people who know something, ANYTHING about an airport . . . .

Posted by: Kim Barnes | June 19, 2008 2:12 PM    Report this comment

Think about it guys and gals - Oklahoma bombing - a rental truck;USS Cole - a rubber dingy; 911 - box cutters; London Underground and Bus bombings - backpacks; Dutch and Madrid train bombings - cell phones; Central London and Glasgow airport bombing attempts -a Mercedes and a Jeep - unfortunately the trick to terrorist prevention is really trying to figure out what new "simple" approach they will use next, but it won't be a very complicated device, and that my friends is the challenge for our governments! All this general aviation security stuff we are reading about here is, as most of you realize, nothing but a very expensive veneer of "apparent security" that virtually accomplishes nothing in fighting terrorism! Welcome to post 911 America! Read the Ben Franklin quote again and again and again! That should be a question for discussion in all the upcoming presidential debates! Wake up America!!!

Posted by: No Name | June 19, 2008 2:57 PM    Report this comment

In addition to flying power I'm a glider pilot. Two years ago on a glider cross country flight I found myself low and needed to land. Luckily I was within gliding distance of the small public airport near Salina, Utah. I landed on the runway and rolled to a stop on the ramp. There are no airplanes based there apparently. The only thing there was a shack and a big chemical tank presumably used by crop dusters. And a shiny new chain link fence with locked gate (armored chain and padlock).
Shortly after I landed my ground crew showed up pulling the glider trailer and we discussed the dilemma of how to get the glider on the trailer with this security fence seperating the two. There isnt even a sign with contact info for access, and this is an airport depicted on the sectional as public use! Out come the tools and we removed the gate from the hinges, drove the truck/trailer onto the airport, put the glider on the trailer, drove out, and reassembled the gate. The entire operation took about two hours. In that time we didnt see another aircraft, heard nothing on the Unicom, and didnt see a single vehicle pass by on the nearby highway.
I hope the residents of Salina feel safer knowing that DHS is wisely spending their taxpayer $ to secure their airport!

Posted by: Mike Wills | June 19, 2008 3:07 PM    Report this comment

Not to simplify things too much but the Bin Ladins funded multiple attacks against the World Trade Towers because they wanted the US military out of the Muslim holy land (Saudia Arabia). Guess what? The US military is out of there. Having achieved their goal I doubt that the Saudis will attack again, but the US has blundered badly in other areas of the world, so there is probably no shortage of individuals with grudges. Fortunately, only a few have the necessary resources to do much about it, and are probably smart enough to circumvent gates and rentacops with ease. So the only ones the bureaucrats can control are you and me, and I bet they are tracking me down as I type this.

The US government is an empire builder, and fear is generally used to justify it's growth. Note how the anthrax scare sent congress running like little girls, or the 'possibility' that a 2500 lb Cessna could 'destroy' a nuclear containment vessel, or that the stuff you exhale will make the earth warmer. Never mind that they require the repeal of various laws of physics, chemistry and biology to do as advertised. I doubt that the average US citizen cares about nor understands such lunacy and nod tacit approval at any argument that contains 'doing something is better than nothing'. All we have to do is pay for it and some bureaucrat will happily remove another freedom at no charge. Thank goodness for such organizations as AOPA who has the clout and connections to lobby the right people.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 19, 2008 4:40 PM    Report this comment

It can get worse .... we have a pointless aviation ID card here in Australia called the "ASIC". You need it when you're 'airside' ... but only pilots require them.

Baggage handlers? Nope. Fuel truck drivers? Nope.

You need a drivers licence to prove identity to get an ASIC, but you can't use the ASIC to prove identity to get a drivers licence.

Kafka couldn't have done it any better.

Posted by: Tim Reid | June 20, 2008 1:05 AM    Report this comment

Helen Keller who was blind said: "WORSE THAT BEING BLIND IS TO HAVE NO VISION", but her comments on security could sum up these Emails:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature....
To avoid danger is not safer in the long run,that to expose oneself without complex.
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
On my airport in France, the same stupid rules apply and the guy who stole two airplanes ( one an ATR airliner) can freely walk the tarmac because he has a pilot licence acquired in Canada but I cannot drive to my hangar. It is like I was renting an appartment but the owner didn't let me use it !!!!
Yes all pilots are potential terrorists and we let our freedom being taken away from us.
Long live the Human Rights !!! Ha, Ha !

Posted by: JEAN D LEULLIER | June 20, 2008 11:31 AM    Report this comment

You're preaching to the choir, man, and you couldn't be more right. I often commute the 45 miles to work in my 172A. When some of non-flying friends ask if I'm worried about safety, I always say, "You want to be safe? Go home tonight and put a bullet in your head. I guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen to you once you're dead."

Posted by: Mike Moffitt | June 21, 2008 9:28 PM    Report this comment

It is not the terrorists who frighten me, I’m willing to take my chances with them; it’s the difference in the intellect between the terrorists and our government and “security” specialists that frighten me. We waste billions of dollars and millions of hours and create huge inconveniencies for law abiding citizens, all in an effort to maintain a weak illusion of security for an ignorant and gullible public. We can not pass laws that limit terrorists activities, terrorists care not a twit about laws, the only people affected are law abiding citizens.

My company has not constructed fences around our business parameter with card controlled turnstiles as entry and exit points. The turnstiles are so small as to make it dangerous to pass with so much as a laptop computer in ones arms, so passageways have been cut into the fence to allow packages to avoid the turnstiles. These passageways would allow a 200 pound man to slip through with little effort. I recently noticed that the passageways had been equipped with hanging plastic strips about 4 inches wide, like a doggy door or thermal curtain seen in front of some commercial refrigerators. I could not imagine what purpose they served, nor could any of my fellow engineers, so I asked the security professionals. Their answer really surprised me: “It is to keep terrorists from climbing through the fence, of course!”

Posted by: Blake & Leslie Wilson | June 23, 2008 12:39 PM    Report this comment

SO: what is the solution? How do we stop the nonsense? There are no anecdotal stories to justify the expense.

Posted by: JJJ C | June 23, 2008 4:30 PM    Report this comment

you should remind the roll of quarters lady that there is nothing illegal about carrying a gun on a GA aircraft. What, am I going to hijack myself??

In Alaska,a gun is a REQUIRED piece of survival gear.

Also, given the corelation between gun enthusiasts and private pilots, I suspect that if the roll of quarters were a gun, she'd have found herself doubletapped in the forhead

Posted by: Don Mei | June 25, 2008 10:50 AM    Report this comment

Shhh, don't tell congress it's legal for it's citizens to carry firearms in GA aircraft! They'll have it outlawed by Tuesday!

Posted by: Kim Barnes | June 25, 2008 11:43 AM    Report this comment

Redcliffe (YRED), where I keep my Bonanza, was, until a few months ago, a lovely little 850m sealed public use airfield with an aeroclub, maintenance facilities, hangars etc. It still is but now is fenced.

An 8 ft high fence topped with barbed wire now encloses the complex, well except for the sides that face the bay. No terrorist would ever think to use a small boat to access that area and crawl through the Mangrove swamp would they? No.

When the gates were being discussed with the local govt it turned out they would all, vehicular and personnel, be locked. Not with a key pad mind you but a bloody great key operated lock.

When it was pointed out that this would be an issue for itinerant pilots and their passengers arriving at night after everyone had gone home it was decided the personnel gates would not be locked after all but be merely 'self closing'. Vehicular gates would remain lockable and resident aircraft owners supplied with keys. I could go into keys being lost, stolen, copied etc but...

One day I was out at the field and was watching the fence being constructed. I was particularly fascinated by the worker fitting barbed wire over a gate that would never be locked nor even have a latch, merely a self closing function.

Ponder that.

Now this fence doesn't unduly hinder my passage to and from my aircraft but it also serves no useful purpose whatsoever and, as such, it's mere existence is an obscenity.

The lunatics are most assuredly in charge of the asylum.

Posted by: CHARLES PERRY | July 5, 2008 1:44 PM    Report this comment

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