All posts tagged 'aviation security'

Aviation Advocacy

Aviation Advocacy, or in simple terms:

“I’m Mad As Hell, and I’m Not Going To Take This Anymore!” article written by Jeremy R.C. Cox on January 31st, 2011


Many readers of this column might remember the 1976 film: “Network” from which I quoted the famous line above. Whether you do, or you don’t remember, the sentiment carried by this quote is totally appropriate to the aviation industry as it stands today: mired between the love that all of we insiders lavish upon it - the near total diffidence and almost total loathing that the eyes of the general public uses to view our industry – the secretive treatment of our industry by most leading company executives that the use of business aircraft is akin to maintain a mistress on the side –the empty words and visible stands made by self-serving politicians who are all heavy users of our products and services, and yet they rarely publically advocate the competitive advantages that business aviation use opens up for them – and lastly the media; a nasty mob of ill-informed, self opinionated asses who have truly lost the thread when it comes to ‘truth’ and ‘substantiated fact.’


All of the alphabet groups have spent millions of dollars of their member’s money on advertising campaigns that rarely deliver the carefully designed message to the right people. As accurate, as inspiring, and all out ‘feel-good’ as most of these print, internet and the odd but-rare television advertisement might make all of we ‘industry insiders’ believe that the right message is being delivered by our paid advocate organizations; unfortunately a lot of this advertising is aimed at us...We the believers, while there is no coordinated message being communicated to the business executives, the general public and so-called public servants, our politicians. My apologies to our alphabet leaders and communication directors, but like I said at the beginning of this piece: “I’m Mad As Hell, and I’m Not Going To Take This Anymore!”


As an industry, we have all been getting squeezed for some time now. Unfortunately most of us were either too focused or horse-blinkered into not seeing the outside forces gathering against us much sooner than we have today. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is the not the root cause of our identity problems, instead it has merely accentuated our public perception issues. No, a large chunk of the pie-chart that depicts our industry problems is due thanks to the secretive way in which we conduct our day-to-day operations. We cater to an elite group of people who choose private aviation, because it is just that: “private.”


Unfortunately public opinion has been stolen and quickly enslaved by the airlines and the military. In any conversation that pops up off-airport while we all go about our daily lives, usually involves a neighbour, fellow school-parent or acquaintance at a sporting event, whom which immediately upon learning that you are a pilot/mechanic/flight attendant/dispatcher/refueller/etc. the first question is “...what airline do you fly for?” If your facial expression alerts them to the fact that they may have misjudged you, then usually the next question is: “...are you in the military?”


Now please don’t misconstrue what I am saying here about the airlines; I am an aviation historian and I am both proud and fascinated by what the airlines have done to shrink this planet. Unfortunately though, the airlines are flat-out the number-one enemy of business aviation. We know this from the User-Fee campaign that they launched against us all back in 2006/2007.


 So what does all of this mean? What is the point of this article?


I believe that it is long overdue for all of us to become either first-time, or better and more effective aviation advocates. SO what is an advocate you may ask?



According to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition, an ‘Advocate’ is: 1 a person who publically supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. 2 a person who pleads a case on someone else’s behalf. 


Business and General Aviation is definitely a cause. I personally derive 100% of my income from this particular cause, and I am pretty certain that most of the readers of this column are working under the same situation as me. Who could we possibly have to plead for, other than on our own behalf, you may ask? Well think about it, there are more than 1,200,000 of us out there, all putting food on our families’ tables’ thanks exclusively to the Business and General Aviation Industry. It is easy for anyone outside of our industry to think that pilots are the only people that work in our industry. Sadly it is not just outsiders that believe this, so maybe it is about time we all showed each other the respect that we all deserve, and remember that there is a whole coach-load of people that support a pilot in the performance of his job. I can think of 32 aviation career positions, but I am probably could come up with more if I really stretched my mind. Here are my 32, in no particular order:


·         Line Service Personnel

·         Bird Scarers’

·         Airport Manager

·         Aviation Accountant

·         Aircraft Dispatcher

·         Maintenance and Airworthiness Inspector

·         Aviation Insurance Agent

·         Aviation Meteorologist

·         Aviation Medical Examiner

·         Aircraft Parts Manager

·         Aviation Financier

·         Cartographer

·         Director of Aircraft Maintenance

·         Aircraft Engineer

·         Computer Analyst

·         Airport Fire/Rescue

·         Certified Flight and Ground Instructors

·         Flight Attendant

·         Avionics Technician

·         Aviation Maintenance Technician

·         Technical Service Representative

·         Designer

·         Salespeople

·         FAA Inspector

·         Air Traffic Controller

·         Safety Officer/Auditor

·         Aviation Department Manager

·         Aircraft Owner

·         Pilot


The U.S. House of Representatives Aviation Committee Chairman, Mr. John Mica, R-Fla., said: “The aviation industry accounts for 11 percent of the country's gross domestic product.” Furthermore, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Member Companies earn annual revenues of nearly $5 trillion – a number that is about half the gross national product – and employ more than 19 million people worldwide.

So back to being an Aviation Advocate; what can each and every one of us do to have an effect on public opinion?


You can start by telling everyone that you know, about what you do; why you do it; and the impact that our industry has on the United States of America, and also the rest of the World. The General Public is totally ignorant of Business and General Aviation. Also write, call, email and visit all of your federally and locally elected officials.


So what are the main issues outside of curing public ignorance about Business and General Aviation that must be advocated by all of us?


We Need Real Modernization in our Industry:


Fully Funding the FAA and Preserving Accountability

The air traffic control system needs to be driven by the best interests of American public – not the airlines’ bottom line. Specifically, we need to:


Modernize the Air Traffic Control System with Satellite Technology

Support transitioning to the Next Generation Air Transportation System that is satellite-based rather than today’s ground-based navigation system. The FAA bill, which includes provisions for modernizing the nation's aviation navigation systems, has been extended 17 times since it expired in 2007


Reject “User Fees” in any Form

User fees would impose an unfair regulatory and financial burden on the millions of Americans who depend on business and general aviation for their livelihood, and have the potential to ground small aircraft.  Oppose this tax structure and instead be in favour of the current “pay at the pump” fuel tax system, as it the simplest, most efficient way to fund FAA operations. MYTH - User fees are necessary for modernization of our air traffic control system. REALITY - Modernization of the air traffic control system is critical, but an overhaul of a successful funding system is not necessary to accomplish those goals. Budget documents show that the user fee scheme proposed by the commercial airlines would have actually CUT modernization funding by at least $600 million, and user fees would add unnecessary bureaucracy. The Government Accountability Office and the Department of Transportation Inspector General have also testified to Congress that the current aviation tax structure is forecasted to raise enough revenue to cover the FAA’s anticipated modernization cost. MYTH - All aircraft place the same costs on the air traffic control system. REALITY - The big airlines want you to believe that a four passenger turboprop and a 400 passenger 747 impose the same costs on the system and should pay the same amount in taxes. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has twice concluded that the commercial airlines drive the FAA’s costs through their hub operations at congested airports.

Oppose “Large Aircraft Security Program” (LASP)

Unnecessary and inefficient security measures, such the “Large Aircraft Security Program” proposed by the TSA, would have dire consequences on the business and general aviation community.  These new and arbitrary rules by TSA would create a huge new bureaucracy that would do little to prevent terrorist activity relating to the use of a small aircraft, and would unfortunately decimate businesses, farmers, and organizations with new administrative burden and bureaucracy.


Support the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and Essential Air Service.


To help you in your quest for enlightened advocacy, please visit all of the following websites often:














I urge you to start writing letters, making telephone calls and to go on elected-representative-office visits. All feedback given to politicians, all education that you can give freely to the general public, will benefit us all. Our families all depend on us becoming aviation advocates and getting a clear and concise message out to both opinion makers and policy makers alike. The sooner that everybody on this planet realizes that a business aircraft is indeed a ‘business tool’ just like a Blackberry or Laptop is a ‘business tool’, and it is understood that a business aircraft means the difference between making 3 meetings in one day, instead of 1 meeting in 3 days, we shall all be better off. If we don’t our industry might die.

Find aircraft for sale listings and pilot resources for U.S. airports on

TSA Administrator Pistole among those to speak at NBAA 2010

Transportation Security Administrator and former deputy FBI director John S. Pistole will be among those to speak Tuesday in Atlanta at the opening general session at the 2010 NBAA annual meeting and convention.

He joins long-time business aviation supporter and Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue, FAA Administrator Randolph J. "Randy" Babbitt, and Cox Enterprises President Jimmy Hayes.


The U.S. Senate confirmed Pistole to the top TSA post in June, a month after President Obama appointed him. The move closed a lengthy time period that saw a couple of withdrawn nominations for the TSA post, as well as the Christmas Day bombing attempt of a U.S.-bound jetliner.

Pistole arrived at the agency with a history of sterling accomplishments in the national security realm, and he has sought to bring that mindset into the agency.

A 26-year veteran of the FBI with extensive national security and counterterrorism experience, Pistole was appointed as head of the FBI's expanded counterterrorism program following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. He later became executive assistant director for counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and then the FBI's deputy director in 2004.

"Administrator Pistole has continually shown a readiness to work with industry to accomplish important goals we all share – enhancing the security of flight while preserving the mobility and flexibility that are the hallmarks of business aviation," NBAA President Ed Bolen said in a statement released last week by the association. "We are delighted that he will be joining us at this year's convention."

Earlier this year, Bolen touted Pistole's role in working cooperatively with NBAA and other business aviation stakeholders to devise the TSA's new waiver plan, which eliminated a historically unpredictable and burdensome process for companies using business aviation to obtain international waivers for flights into the U.S.

Get complete details for the NBAA 2010 convention here.

FAA greenlights ADS-B conversion; security questions raised about its use in iPhone app

The FAA announced this week it is ready to go full scale with its implementation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system to track aircraft. The agency expects the transition, which will give air-traffic controllers another tool to track aircraft, to be complete by 2013 and mandated by 2020.

As this development plays out, though, a smart phone application that allows the technology to track aircraft with a phone camera has come under fire from a British security official.

Patrick Mercer, former chair of the UK’s Parliamentary Counter Terrorism subcommittee, according to a Press Trust of India report, said terrorist could use an iPhone application to locate and target an in-flight aircraft for an missile attack.

“Anything that makes it easier for our enemies to find targets is madness,” he reportedly said.

The article also mentions, without specifics, that the Department of Homeland Security also “is investigating how to protect aircraft from attacks.”

This line of thought has its critics as well, however. Marcus Yam, writing for the technology web site, commented smarmily: “Next thing he’ll go after are telescopes and binoculars.”


Louisville pilot Robert Patterson said as much this week to us. He hosts an ADS-B receiver on the system used by, which sells the smart phone application.

Louisville International Airport (SDF) was chosen by the FAA as a test site for the system largely due to the UPS fleet that flies cargo into and out of the city daily. Patterson, an aviation enthusiast who does similar hosting for, said he has enjoyed using the new technology and thinks it should be there for others.

“(It's) Innocent,” he tweeted to us on about the tracking system, after we posted a link to the initial criticism on our Twitter feed.

In a follow-up phone interview, Patterson noted that the tracking data broadcast by the receivers is easy to come across. Anyone can buy and connect one to a laptop via USB for about $700.

“If they can afford an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade), the price of the (ADS-B) antenna probably isn’t going to stop them,” he said.

The only difference between having it on a highly mobile laptop versus a smart phone app, he said, is the price.

Patterson said it would be a disservice to the aviation community to block access to the applications, which cost around $5, as many who would enjoy following flights in their neighborhoods might not opt for the pricier antennas. At least one aviation authority agrees, it seems.

Yam also notes in his report that “the UK Department of Transport doesn’t seem that worried, though, as it said, ‘This application might be new but the ability to track aircraft isn’t.”

How else are we going to have fun with aircraft when we are stuck on the ground?

The FAA gives anwers on the King-Santa Barbara ordeal, but questions remain

John and Martha King with their Cessna 172
prior to their fateful trip last weekend to Santa Barbara.

When something goes wrong, we usually can step backward and find multiple events that led to the collective mishap. It appears that happened again this week.

Many in the aviation community displayed outrage after police detained well-known King School owners John and Martha King last weekend, mistakenly believing the aircraft in which they were flying had been stolen. Guns drawn, officers handcuffed the couple and hauled them away in police cruisers.

Looking backward on this incident of mistaken identity, a chain of events can be found to blame. Now several national aviation groups, including the AOPA and NBAA, have urged government agencies to employ more efficient tactics so those who fly legally are not lumped together with the criminals who do not.

We spoke with several officials with the FAA and FBI about the incident to shed more light on what happened and how they think it could be kept from happening again. Now we will break down the King ordeal in Santa Barbara. Let us try to reconstruct what went wrong in chronological order, while also considering how to redirect efforts to avoid this from happening again. [more]

-          The FAA made a list of tail numbers, including the trouble-making N50545 from this event, available to the Cessna Aircraft Co.  The aircraft maker then attached it to a 2009 Cessna 172S that will be flown by, among others, John and Martha King.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told that aircraft manufacturers, including Cessna and others, often receive blocks of available registration numbers from the agency. This allows each company to deliver an aircraft directly to the buyer, simplifying the process of obtaining a new plane.

-          Through Oct. 1, old FAA rules have allowed retired tail numbers to be reissued two years after they are retired. The new rules, which writers have written several articles about, increase the timeframe between recycling tail numbers to five years. They take effect next month. The updated law also allows the FAA to better track to whom and to where an aircraft is registered by enforcing registration renewals more tightly.

So some of the work to help fix this has taken place already.

“This new endeavor will probably eliminate, to a huge degree, a 'Santa Barbara' occurrence in the future,” said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus in an email Monday. He served as an acting public affairs official for the west coast this week and normally represents the agency for issues in the northwest and Alaska. “Just how the C-150 number was reissued (the plane stolen in 2002 that sparked the mix-up) is not something I can track down.”

-          Fergus’ last line brings up another aspect in this bureaucratic snowball that involves several federal and local agencies. The Cessna 150 in question originally was reported stolen (and the Kings say the owner still never has recovered it) in 2002, seven years before last weekend’s incident. Thus, even if the new five-year FAA policy of recycling old tail numbers had taken affect years ago, it may have done little to prevent this particular case.

The FAA will now look into further options for handling the registration numbers of stolen planes, Brown said, including considering an AOPA suggestion to retire them outright.

-          The Kings’ filing of an IFR plan alerted law enforcement that a stolen plane may have been flying into Santa Barbara. They in turn argue the absurdity of a criminal filing a path that lets the government know their exact moves ahead of time.

The El Paso Information Center, a joint security force of several branches of federal government that is overseen by the DEA, tracks flight plans against a list of registration numbers from stolen aircraft (and the probably keep tabs on other suspect flights, too). Originally focused in the realm of border patrol, the facility’s roles and staff grew exponentially after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Its employees now investigate many aspects of illegal immigration, terrorism and drug smuggling.

Nobody outside of the agency knows for sure exactly what happened at this point, as DEA public affairs officials told reporters this week they would dig for better answers before commenting, although AOPA reporter Alton K. Marsh talked to the right sources got a home run. (His report on the AOPA web site, perhaps the most thorough on this whole affair, also notes the case of a Cirrus aircraft that shares a tail number with a Piper that was stolen in Florida. The FAA will likely push to have both numbers removed from the stolen aircraft list.)

By calling a spokesman with the McKinney, Texas, police department, from where the Cessna 150 originally was stolen, Marsh’s reporting makes it increasingly clear that officials at EPIC learned somewhere along the line that the registration number did not, in fact, belong to the stolen 150 but to the 172 flown by the Kings. By the time the center tried to relay this to police in Santa Barbara, police already had detained the couple.

-          Though the DEA has not confirmed this, it is reasonable to assume, based on conversations with the FAA and other reports, the data alerting of the stolen aircraft originated from within the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. The FBI oversees the center, which includes data gathered by local, state and federal agencies from throughout the United States.

The center allows agencies to (most of the time quite intelligently) share information on fugitives, terrorists, sex offenders, stolen cars and goods, important tools to support crime fighting. However, according to FBI spokesman Bill Carter, it is up to the reporting agency to remove or change a report so other agencies can avoid the failure of acting on bad information.

The 172 flown by the Kings had been stopped 18 months beforehand with a Cessna employee at the yoke. The situation did not entail drawn guns and news media coverage, as it did in the King case. However, at that point, it gave investigators every reason in the world to remove the registration number in question from the NCIC.

“It’s happened with cars,” said FBI spokesman Bill Carter. “A stolen car is recovered and the police department fails to clear it.”

Imagine that one if you see a dozen officers behind you with guns drawn and all you did was run a red light.

To drive this home further, Carter noted that NCIC data alone is not probable cause for an officer to make an arrest.

Although the King situation exposed several chinks of armor in the registration and tracking of aircraft, along with how law enforcement uses that data to catch criminals, it is a cloud that also comes with a ray of sunshine.

The Kings received an apology from the Santa Barbara police chief and, in turn, they offered to work with the agency to help develop a more effective protocol for approaching suspect aircraft. The Kings hope that other agencies use the result in a nationwide model.

Furthermore, one also can be hopeful that the FAA and other involved federal agencies can modify their policies to ensure the innocent remain innocent so investigators’ time can be more effectively spent catching those who are not. No innocent person wants, or deserves, to be confused with someone else at gunpoint.

Handguns at the Security Checkpoint: Don't Do It.

According to a recent post on The TSA Blog, at least two passengers a day are caught at security checkpoints with a gun in their carry-on luggage. According to the post, when the passengers are caught, the most common response is "I didn't know it was in the bag." Unfortunately, that excuse works for the TSA just about as well as "the dog ate my homework" works for a high school teacher.

Once caught, a passenger potentially faces a number of consequences. First, the subsequent interaction with and interrogation by local law enforcement will quite often result in the passenger missing his or her flight. Next, the passenger could face criminal prosecution for violation of 49 C.F.R. 1540.111 which prohibits carriage of a weapon on your person or accessible carry-on luggage if security screening was required before boarding of the aircraft. The passenger may also be prosecuted under other local statutes that prohibit possession of a handgun at a checkpoint or in the secured area of an airport. [more]

Finally, and in addition to criminal prosecution, the TSA could also initiate a civil penalty action seeking to impose a civil penalty/monetary fine against the passenger for violation of 49 C.F.R. 1540.111 The penalty could range in amount from $1,500 to $7,500, depending upon whether or not the handgun was loaded. The civil penalty action is similar to an FAA enforcement action and does not provide as many constitutional rights and protections as a passenger would have in a criminal proceeding.

The TSA recommends, and I concur, that all passengers double check their carry-on baggage BEFORE arriving at the security checkpoint to confirm that they do not have a handgun or other prohibited item(s) in their luggage. Seems like a "no-brainer" to me. But, if you are caught "packing" at a checkpoint or in the secured area of an airport, hire an aviation attorney to help protect your rights.

For more information on the restrictions placed upon firearms at airports and in aircraft, please read my article on the topic: Carrying Firearms On Aircraft.

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