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Seaman: Who’s Driving Our National Policies?

The discussion about FBO and Airport Security is heating up.


September 27, 2007
By Rob Seaman

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Sitting at the Great War Flying Museum the other evening, I was but a
few feet from open access to the taxiway and adjoining runway. No
fence. No cameras. No barrier at all. As I sat there with a friend, I
commented on how nice it was to just sit and take in the serenity of
the surrounding area. But one has to wonder just how much longer a
place like the Brampton Flying Club can keep its quaint and open
ambiance? The unfortunate answer is: probably not much longer.

There
is no secret that what we once considered normal and acceptable around
any airport has changed and will be changing over the coming months and
years. The recent series of ‘discussions’ held by Transport Canada in
various locations across the country have made many realize this bitter
truth. Simply put, what we once valued as part of being Canadian – our
peaceful openness, acceptance of others and helpful demeanor on a
global scale – has to change in recognition of global politics.
Unfortunately, it has become clear that we are being viewed as too soft
and too easy for exploitation by both those who consider us as friend –
and those who would use us to help them harm others.

Like it or
not, aircraft are now considered to be potential weapons when in the
hands of those who choose to use them as such. And while this does
drive the need for change to aviation and air base security, there can
be no one all-encompassing solution that fits each and every facility
and site. A border airport does provide the potential for exploitation
as a means to launch an attack against many major U.S. sites that have
been identified as targets by that nation’s guardians. Accordingly, we
must share our responsibility in helping to make sure that does not
happen. However, an airport in northern Saskatchewan does not provide
the same risk. Distance is one consideration and type and size of
aircraft are another.

Under the current TC discussions, we
looking at setting rules – and associated costs – for equipment and
physical changes to buildings, facilities and ramps. In many cases,
these changes may never be tested or used in the manner intended. Most
small airfields and FBOs, if faced with the potential for new fencing,
security cameras and passenger screening/scanning plus extensive
external ramp lighting systems – will simply fold and go. They can
never recoup the cost in a reasonable time and do not have the pockets
required to front the associated outlay in the first place. And quite
frankly, by their business model it may not even be needed.

Some
observers have offered that all this is being driven by U.S. interests
and paranoia. They may be right. We certainly hear enough political
rhetoric in the media from ill-informed U.S. Congress members who seem
to think we have terrorists behind every tree (right next to all that
snow we live with all year round and our igloos). But then again, our
domestic masters also see the need to try and get more control of our
airports too – which is interesting in itself since they sold them all
off to private interests back in the ‘90s under the National Airports
Policy. So they don’t want to own them – but they still want to run
them as they see fit. As usual when you mix politics and aviation – it
is about as clear as mud!

So what should we do? We need to make
out feelings and opinions well known in this discussion. Do not sit
back and wait for decisions that will affect how we conduct our
business and recreational flight activities.

And just in case
you are thinking that this is not of concern to you and is in good
hands, please ponder on this. When I was invited to one of the regional
discovery sessions, I asked if I might bring a visiting corporate
aviation official from overseas to observe. The reply from the
Transport Canada event coordinator – whose title was ‘Analyst’ – was
“we are not discussing corporate aviation security at this time – just
FBOs, airports and passenger screening – so we see no reason to extend
an invitation to the person you wish to bring.” Last time I checked,
corporate aviation is very much a part of this discussion. So is that
enough reason to want to get involved? Everyone really needs to be
involved in this one.