Sunday, June 28, 2009

UCAP Fly/Drive-In

Here's the motley crew from yesterday's really fun UCAP event at Barnes Westfield Airport (BAF).

l to r: Mike Wise, "Maxflight" & Lisa, Jeff O'Halloran(kneeling), Rick Felty, Jeff Ward (peering over from the back), John Wellington, Jack Hodgson, Doug Fortnam, Kim & "Turbo" Ed, & Mike Smith. All standing in front of Mike Wise's Sting S3 LSA.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jeb on a/c tiedowns for Av Consumer Magazine

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Verdict is in -- and TSA should heed it NOW!

If you haven't aready heard, let me pass on an interesting piece of good news for general aviation: Richard L. Skinner, Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, released a report on general aviation, TSA's role and the overall security picture...and he said:

"We determined that the general aviation presents only limited and mostly hypothetical threats to security."

In other words, as a security threat general aviation poses little -- and what the threats the TSA wants to clamp down on are "mostly hypothetical" and the aircraft in general are too light and of highly limited capacity to do damage.

Isn't that what we've been saying for several years?

Mr. Skinner's report notes that reports if suspicious activities to the AOPA Airport Watch Hotline have resulted in only rare instances of cases that might pose a real security threat. And the department's own Office of Intelligence has concluded that there are no credible threats of crop dusters being used to mount a chemical or biological attack.

OK. The verdict is in. Time for the TSA to withdraw the Large Aircraft Security Program proposal totally and turn its resources to watching for real threats. And time for the TSA to simply kill off the recently inacted insanity requiring background checks, fingerprinting and airport-specific badges for GA tenants at air-carrier airports with physical separation between the two operations.

We do not need these skeenkin' badges.

Of course, we pretty much all recognize that this could change; but between the AOPA Airport Watch Program and its activities, hotline and how-to pamphlet, we're all sensitive to the appearance of suspicious activities -- and those reports to the hotline have proved this system works.

So TSA -- do the right thing.

And finally, to Prof. Lawrence M. Wein, the professor of management science at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, maybe you should manage to read Mr. Skinner's report.

After your little OpEd in The New York Times this week, you may want to update your MBA approach to general aviation security because it's wholly lacking in logic, devoid of effectiveness and even more impractical than anything the TSA has come up with -- at least, anything that's made it to the light of day.

The good professor was discussing the lack of an "overarching strategic plan" at DHS, observing all the ways terrorists might sneak a fissile weapon into the U.S. -- across borders, via boats, and, of course, airplanes. He identified four modes with no less than 132 different paths possible.
Here's what he said about general aviation:

"What about attack by a small plane? Given the impracticality of shooting down a tiny aircraft before it could detonate a bomb from the air, the best approach is to begin screening all domestic departures of small airplanes. This effort should be folded into the Securing the Cities Initiative."

Guess for someone sitting in a bastion of theoretical management practices where process is king, the good professor might have his supporters.

But his approach -- even absent the report from the DHS IG -- was lacking wholly in practical aspects and logistical basis. Every flight? Really?

How? With what army? Oh, yeah...let's not forget, the terrorists will just naturally stick with using an established airport with establishment security screening becuase we know how important it is for terrorists to obey the laws of the nation they want to attack.

Please. Every flight screened? Really?


Get a grip, Professor. And come back when you've come up with a recommendation that we also start screening every trip by a pick-up, minivan or SUV.

Really. And read Mr. Skinner.

He seems to be the half of this week's DHS news that has a grip on reality -- let alone practicality.

-- Dave

Monday, June 01, 2009

Something about this bothers me...

The headline from today's AOPA Aviation eBrief says this: "General aviation applauds changes to TSA Security Directive." The AeB references a story by an old friend in aviation journalism, Benet Wilson, as sound, sturdy and sober a realist as you're apt to find in the business -- particularly that part of the aviation journalism community anchored inside The Beltway.

So the gist of the story never felt questionable or in-doubt to me.

No, what made me stop and cogitate was the concept represented by the headline and the underlying story. Aviation group leaders in essence applauded an uncommon application of common sense by the uncommonly obtuse at the TSA.

Seriously. Think about this for a brief moment.

Back last year here came the TSA with another cockamamie regulation issued not as a proposed rule but as a fete de compli -- a done deal as Security Directive SD 1542-04-08F. It came out of the blue aimed at all tenants of airports with any level of commercial serviced.

The requirement: each airport impacted must write and get approved a new security program for creating and issuing steenkin' badges to all tenants and those who want to move around the movement areas. Oh, yeah, the program has to show how the airport's program will assure fingerprinting, criminal background checks and the issuance of new badges specific to this program.

The rules require each airport to come up with its own steenkin' badge -- steenkin' badges only legal at the airport of issuance. Without a steenkin' badge, everybody using the movement area of such airports must be escorted by someone with a steenkin' badge -- or else that person and the airport could be in deep skeenk.


Now prior to this new steenkin' SD, airports at which GA and Common Carriage Carriers shared access to ramps and hangar areas already lived with such steekin' badges requirements; no real incidents are cited or known about other airports at which GA and Common Carraige Carriers have their own, separate and distinct, operating areas, while sharing a runway.

So no idea what problem this steenkin badge idea deems to solve. They won't say -- at least, beyond the boilerplate "to enhance the security of" the Cheetos tiger intones, "Blah, blah, blah."

And it gets better, of course. The TSA also never made available a full list of affected airports -- nor did it publicly reveal the full details of the program. You know, the Catch 22 of the War on Terror: You must follow rules, but you can' t know what they all are because you might use them! Maybe to comply!!

Yeah, right...can't have people actually knowing enough to comply, now, can we? The might help the terrorists, you know.

So the applause seems a little bit like applauding your boxing opponent because he stopped hitting you after knocking you down.

It makes little sense from my seat. Applauding a reduction in ridiculousness should actually involve reminding the TSA of the steenkin' badges aspects of this whole mess: use of directives to avoid actual user-involved rulemaking; no use of common sense in the structuring of the program or the rules underpinning it. No complete info available to the public.

So letting transient pilots hit the head or go to the phone to call for service is some small progress, a tiny victory over the total "Duh?!?" of the original document. And accepting an ill-advised rule enacted by a dubious process for a doubtful purpose warrants no applause from my seat.

We can't keep accepting little losses from this agency in hopes it will wise up later; we keep up the pace of lost access and flexiblity liked that proposed in the Large Aircraft Security
Program proposal, adding further government control access and flexiblity, and we'll be on our way to extinction as a mode of personal and small-business travel.

Instead of applauding the TSA showing a tiny bit of common sense, we should be showing uncommon unity and calling for the agency's sunset.

Maybe then we as a community can create an agency capable of meeting both sides of its mission: enacting sensible protections without nonsensically stifling private aviation and commercial -- something, somehow, the TSA has managed not to visit or otherwise eviscerate rail and bus, truck and car rentals, or private maritime travel.

It's time aviation got as much consideration. In the meantime, no applause from this cockpit.

-- Dave