Secure skies and airport access

It’s going to become more difficult to get into the general aviation area of the Grand Junction Regional Airport this summer. Some flyers believe airport officials have gone too far with their latest security measures, and say they will end up harming local businesses and important civic groups as a result.

It certainly looks that way from our vantage point on the tarmac. That’s especially true since Transportation Security Administration officials say that, while they approved the airport’s security plan, they didn’t mandate the measures in the plan.

That plan includes new gated access to the general aviation area, limits on the number of guests who can enter the gate at one time and a requirement that guests be escorted by business owners or pilots who have security badges approved by the TSA. Additionally, people with badges can escort no more than five visitors at a time, and they must be able to see each of the visitors at all times.

That will essentially kill the local Civil Air Patrol’s cadet program, which introduces young people to flying, said the group’s deputy commander. “We cannot physically escort that many people in and out of the gate,” said Ed Behen.

The gate requirements could also threaten a business at the airport, Colorado Airlines, a private aircraft service that flies individuals such as gas and oil workers around the country. It would limit access to the company’s parking lot and require 24-hour escorts, which would be impossible for the small business, said owner Ron Rouse. Some aviation enthusiasts say the new rules will also discourage recreational flying.

Making it more difficult for terrorists to use our airports to cause violence and mayhem is certainly a worthwhile goal. But, as the TSA has done with its security patdowns that cause needless inconvenience to millions of commercial air travelers, the local airport is casting too wide a net.

The chance of terrorists using Grand Junction Regional Airport to stage an attack should not be ignored, but it is relatively small.

The odds of the planned security rules significantly harming a valued local citizens group, a local business and others are much higher — nearly 100 percent.

Not all dangers can be entirely eliminated. But, in this case, the direct threats to general aviation can be alleviated by taking a more sensible approach to security.

The airport authority should re-examine these security measures, and work with the general aviation community to develop more reasonable ones.


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