Security holes in aerial advertising

The GAO report noted that, “while TSA does
not believe aerial advertising aircraft pose a significant threat,
TSA’s summary assessment of general aviation concluded that a variety
of factors made general aviation vulnerable to terrorist attacks.”

TSA itself concedes that “the ability of
terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda to adopt new and creative
methods of attack highlight the need for security of all operations
using general aviation aircraft and airports, including aerial

To mitigate this threat, TSA plans to
coordinate with an industry-led initiative to study security
vulnerabilities associated with general aviation aircraft and to issue
a set of “best practices,” or recommended guidelines, to improve
security at general aviation airports, as well as a self-assessment
guide for general aviation airport managers to use.

After assuming responsibility for processing
waivers for aerial advertisers to fly over restricted stadium airspace
from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), TSA began to strengthen
and implement additional processes to enhance security, including
strengthening background checks on aerial advertisers.

However, the GAO reported that while
background checks were made on aerial advertisers, the checks were of
limited effectiveness and the information they collected was
inconsistent—as was the subsequent information sharing among
authorities. Further, the GAO found that there were no formal policies
or procedures in place to reduce threats from aerial advertisers.

Because the GAO’s detailed findings could
reveal dangerous specific vulnerabilities in aviation security that
terrorists might exploit, they have been withheld from the agency’s
public report. Ridge has indicated to the GAO that he will “take action
to address vulnerabilities and inefficiencies in the background check
process for aerial advertisers in the event that the waiver restriction
is repealed.”

The GAO report concluded: “Such actions could also improve the quality
of background checks for all general aviation pilots seeking waivers of
security-related flight restrictions.” HST

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