General Aviation in Major Metropolitan Areas Presents Few Security Concerns




General Aviation in Major Metropolitan Areas Presents Few Security Concerns
We also visited GA facilities in busy, heavily populated metropolitan areas where people might be at risk in the event of a GA terrorist attack. In addition to the Houston-area sites mentioned in the television report, we conducted site visits at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston; O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago, Illinois; DuPage Airport (DPA) in Carol Stream, Illinois; Los Angeles International (LAX), Long Beach (LGB), and Van Nuys Airports (VNY) in the greater Los Angeles, California, area; and Teterboro Airport (TEB) in Teterboro, New Jersey.  We also visited Potomac Airfield in Fort Washington, Maryland.
Additional Houston-Area Site Visit
To determine whether GA might pose a threat at a major Houston- area airport, we visited IAH.  IAH serves the greater Houston, Texas, area and is a connecting point for many commercial carriers.  IAH is publicly owned and handles 2% transient GA and no local GA.  We met with the TSA airport security manager, who stated that the airport security team consisted of the senior superintendent, operations supervisors, security coordinators, and officers who patrol the GA operations area.  The airport security coordinators are responsible for key audits (accounting for all airport keys to the various facilities); listing emergency contact telephone numbers; and obtaining, issuing, and monitoring employee and contractor badges.  The airport coordinators update the officers on regulations, threats, keys, and badges.  IAH airport officials do not get involved with GA except to ensure that the GA facilities follow proper safety and security regulations.
IAH has fixed base operators at the airport. A fixed base operator (FBO) is a retail facility that offers aircraft fuel, oil, and parking along with access to restrooms and telephones. Some FBOs sell additional aircraft services such as hangar (indoor) storage, maintenance, aircraft charter or rental, flight training, deicing, and ground services such as towing and baggage handling. FBOs also may offer services not directly related to aircraft, such as rental cars, lounges, and hotel reservations. IAH has two FBOs: Atlantic Aviation and Landmark Aviation. There is no flight school at IAH.
There have been no incidents of concern since an aviation accident in 1991 involving GA aircraft.
Chicago-Area Site Visits

ORD officials stressed that GA operations are a minor part of ORD’s daily activities.  Staff within the Department of Aviation for the City of Chicago operate the GA facility the same way they operate the commercial facility.
The airport staff works closely with the TSA federal security director in executing their Airport Security Plan. The purpose of the plan is to increase communication among airport tenants, the airport manager, and law enforcement; identify specific activities that should be reported; and increase awareness of security issues. The elements of a typical airport security plan might include a notification system to include an alerting roster of emergency personnel at the airport, identification of airport security personnel and their responsibilities, explanation of airport signage, the incorporation of new technology such as remote cameras and noise sensors, an explanation of the established routine patrols by local law enforcement, a description of an annual exercise at the airport, and ongoing assessments of potential threats to the airport.6
ORD typically handles 3% transient GA and has no local GA. Signature Flight Support is the only FBO at the airport, and there is no flight school.
There have been no incidents of concern. DPA, approximately 30 miles west of ORD in Carol Stream, Illinois, is owned by the DuPage Airport Authority, an independent government body established by the State of Illinois.  DPA handles
58% transient general aviation and 38% local general aviation. DPA has a 24-hour FAA air traffic control tower and more than 40 aviation and non-aviation support businesses.  The airport has only one FBO and one flight school.  The airport also has an onsite U.S. Customs and Border Protection office.  There have been no incidents of concern at the airport.
Los Angeles-Area Site Visits
LAX is publicly owned by Los Angeles World Airports and operated by the City of Los Angeles.  We observed minimal GA operations at LAX.  Transient GA comprise 2% of the daily takeoffs and landings at LAX.  There is no local GA. Landmark Aviation and Atlantic Aviation are the two FBOs at the airport. There are no flight schools at the airport, and there have been no incidents of concern.
VNY, also owned by Los Angeles World Airports and operated by the City of Los Angeles, is one of the world’s busiest GA airports. VNY averages approximately 400,000 takeoffs and landings annually.  More than 100 businesses are located on the 730-acre airport, including 6 major FBOs and 6 flight schools.  Celebrities, politicians, and business executives use this airport because it offers them convenience and anonymity.  There have been no incidents of concern at the airport.
LGB has 365,000 annual GA takeoffs and landings annually, including Life Flight donor organ and critical care patient delivery, law enforcement, and search and rescue flights. The city-owned airport services charter flights, private aviation planes, and flight schools.  In addition, it is a center for law enforcement flights, a helicopter landing zone, advertising blimps, planes towing advertising banners, and similar functions.
At LGB, 90% of the traffic is GA.  Local GA accounts for 51% of the GA traffic and transient GA accounts for 39%.  Commercial flights are restricted to 66 takeoffs and landings per day.  The airport has four shorter runways and one 10,000-foot runway used primarily for jets.  LGB has five FBOs and one flight school. There have been no reportable incidents at the airport.

Teterboro Site Visit
TEB in Teterboro, New Jersey, is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which also owns and operates LaGuardia and Kennedy airports.  TEB, 12 miles west of Manhattan, is the second most active GA airport in the country. Airport personnel devote considerable security efforts toward protecting the many large private jets and dignitary movements. The airport is patrolled 24 hours a day.  It has five FBOs and no flight school.  Officials have not identified any major security threats, and there have been no security-related incidents of concern. There have been two aviation accidents that illustrate the effect of GA aircraft impacting buildings.

In February 2005, a CL-600 Challenger corporate jet crashed into a warehouse while trying to take off from TEB (see figure 6).  The plane, with 11 aboard, skidded across a busy highway during the morning rush hour, struck two cars, and then crashed into the building.  No one was killed, though several persons were injured. Although the damage to the building was not substantial, it should be noted that the plane was not at full speed when it collided with the building. In addition, an aircraft this large could have carried a sizable load of explosives.


Figure 6.  Photo of the CL-600 Challenger Crash Site


In October 2006, a small GA aircraft piloted by New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle flew from TEB and collided with an apartment building in New York City, as shown in figure 7. The crash caused a fire on the 40th floor of the building. Lidle and his flight instructor were killed, and two dozen people were injured, of whom 12 were residents of the building and the others were firefighters.

National Capital Region Site Visit

Privately owned Potomac Airfield is located in a residential neighborhood in Fort Washington, Maryland. It has one short runway that can accommodate only small aircraft. The airport handles 95% local and 5% transient GA. On average, the airport has 33 aircraft takeoffs and landings per day. There is a small flight school at the airport.

Potomac Airfield is one of three GA airports in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) (figure 8). The FRZ is contained within and forms the core of a larger, less restricted airspace known as the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA). The Washington FRZ is roughly a 15-mile circle around Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The current shape and size of the Washington SFRA, roughly a 30-mile circle around Washington, DC, was redefined in 2007.


Figure 7. Photo of Belaire Condominium after being hit by the Lidle aircraft


Figure 8. Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area FRZ and SFRA


Private and commercial aircraft may enter the Washington SFRA after complying with FAA notices that require, among other things, that the pilot file a flight plan that describes the course, destination, and other details of the trip. The flight plan is filed with an FAA Flight Service Station, which is an air traffic facility that provides information and services to pilots before, during, and after flights, but unlike air traffic control, is not responsible for giving instructions or clearances or providing separation. The information is passed on to FAA air traffic control for subsequent observation of the aircraft.

Flights within the FRZ must follow more restrictive procedures. Flight within the FRZ is restricted to governmental, certain scheduled commercial, and a limited set of waivered GA flights. TSA performs background checks on all pilots flying into the FRZ and then issues a personal identification number that authenticates the pilot’s identity. Only then is the pilot permitted to fly to an airport in the FRZ. AOPA describes this as “a process which is both time-consuming and inconvenient for most pilots and extremely prohibitive for pilots outside the Washington, DC, metro area.” Nonvetted pilots who penetrate the FRZ could face severe penalties, including the loss of their pilot’s certificate.7 These requirements have had a considerable effect on the Maryland GA airports referred to as the “Maryland Three” or “DC-3”: College Park Airport in College Park, Washington Executive/Hyde Field in Clinton, and Potomac Airfield in Fort Washington.

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