GAO Report on General Aviation Security Risks

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report requested by Senator Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, on the security risks posed by unauthorized access to airports with general aviation (GA) operations.  GAO’s report was conducted from April 2010 to May 2012.

The focus of GAO’s report was to examine physical security measures that would prevent attempts to gain unauthorized access. GAO defined physical security as a combination of operational and security equipment, personnel and procedures. Their goal was to “illustrate the variation of security conditions at select general aviation airports”  which they did by comparing the recommendations of TSA Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports to what a “nonrepresentative” group of 13 general aviation airports were doing.

GAO did not assess or review any other security measures including federal, state or local laws or other programs designed to enhanced the layers of security at GA airports such as background checks, FBO security measures, and standard security programs for 12/5 operators and private charters.

After the comparison, GAO identified 14 physical security measures that would help GA airports protect against the risk of unauthorized access attempts, which can be found on page 24 of the report.

In working with its members, specifically airport authorities that own and operation GA airports, ACI-NA provided comments and feedback to TSA’s rewrite of its General Aviation Security Guidelines.  We have been pleased that TSA’s Office of General Aviation is very receptive to industry comment and feedback.  ACI-NA also assisted with the distribution of the General Aviation Security Threat Assessment that allowed airports to self-identify security enhancements for mitigating risk.  Further, the General Aviation Security Threat Assessment, mandated by the 9/11 Act, called for TSA to pursue a grant program to assist airports in enhancing the security of their airports.  While lighting, CCTV and fencing were among the top three security measures identified, TSA in its new risk based approach to security reported that it is looking at ‘what is it that we are trying to prevent and protect against’.  If it’s preventing large aircraft from causing catastrophic damage to structures near metropolitan areas, as the GAO report suggests, then TSA may find, through its’ risk-based approach, that securing aircraft with locks is a lot more reasonable and responsible in an environment where both airports and aircraft operators are trying to do more with less.


Contact ACI-NA’s Lydia Kellogg for more information.