DHS has but little money for general-aviation airports

Published 17 October 2005

DHS has a budget of $31.9 billion. Only $5.3 million of this is set aside for the nation’s 19,000 locally operated runways, also called general-aviation airports. That amounts to about $277 for security at every small airport. DHS will provide $275,000 to bolster the Airport Watch program, a hot line pilots may call when they see suspicious activity. In addition, $5 million will go to building security fences. This is more or less it. Large commercial airports will receive more money: $3.3 billion for baggage screening, $1 billion for “enforcement presence,” and $180 million for explosive detection apparatus.

The19,000 small airports nationwide are outside federal regulations. They account for 77 percent of all the nation’s flights, with more than 200,000 aircraft taking to the air every year. The decision what security measures, if any, should be implemented in these airports is up to local officials. Some may worry about the fact that 77 percent of all the nation’s flights are not regulated for security and antiterrorism measure, but not Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):

Historically, the general-aviation community has been regulated by its owner-operators,” she said. “We recognize that a flexible and common-sense approach to general-aviation security is necessary if the industry is to

maintain its economic vitality.”