formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

August 25, 2009 The TSA, Chicken Little, and City Council

The Liberty Gazette
August 25, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Mike:
“The sky is falling,” cried Chicken Little, only to discover the sky’s reflection in a beautiful lake instead. Such was the case of the noise made by a member of Congress and an investigative reporter from a Houston TV station a couple of years ago, claiming that security at Houston-area airports was inadequate. Baloney.

Their noise wreaked havoc nationally and like a cancer, caused the Transportation Security Administration to begin to eat away at the health of community airports, and the freedom of citizens. But the Department of Homeland Security thoroughly researched Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s claim, sought input from aviation groups, and visited airports in Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, NY/NJ and D.C. areas. Fortunately, reasonable heads prevailed and in May, more than a year after screaming fearfuls began their destructive binge, the DHS Inspector General published a 36-page report, concluding, "We reviewed the allegations and determined that they are not compelling."

Linda: The TSA, created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is under DHS, which stated, "We determined that General Aviation presents only limited and mostly hypothetical threats to security;” compared to trucks, small airplanes are much less of a risk. DHS declined to make further regulatory security recommendations to TSA. After TSA reviewed the report the agency chose not to comment further. Maybe they were embarrassed. TSA has played heavy-handed politics with unsuspecting cities and counties telling them they must put up fences and lock up their airports with signs conveying “Stay Out!” when there is no basis for it in federal law.

Aviation is a small, tight-knit community; security concerns us all. We are trained to spot and respond to anything out of the ordinary. We have an effective “neighborhood watch” program recognized by DHS. Our airports should not become indistinguishable from maximum security prisons, victims of unwarranted fear. Fortunately, in Livingston you can tell the airport from the prison across the road. The airport is accessible to the public, and even inviting. You can even live on the airport. Part 107 of the Code of Federal Regulations addresses the fencing of airports served by Air Carriers. General Aviation airports such as Liberty do not fit under this regulation, and are generally not required by law to have fences.

Mike: As a flight instructor, the law requires I receive recurrent TSA Security Awareness Training and a record is kept of all training. TSA agents regularly audit us. This is true for most aviation jobs. Flight students must also meet certain screening criteria. Flight crew members of charter aircraft with a takeoff weight of more than 12,500 lbs must meet additional TSA requirements and pilots flying corporate aircraft either know, or their key passengers know, every person who sets foot on their aircraft.

Many things have changed since the terrorist attacks, but according to DHS, despite the sensationalized reports by some uniformed journalists, and even less informed politicians, the sky is not falling.

Linda: About the fence around the Liberty Airport: we’re told TSA convinced the city it was “required.” While it reduces vandalism, it was never required. However, since plans call for a move of facilities to the east side of the airport, eventually that west side barbed-wire fence and high-security gate will only be used by pilots and their guests to access their airplanes. Some day, when a pilot lounge or terminal building is built on the west side, it will be encouraging to see the public drive up, enter the building, and feel welcome at our publicly-paid-for airport.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.

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