Atlantic Column Lampoons GA Security

Atlantic magazine Columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has written detailed accounts for years of shortcomings he's observed in the Transportation Security Administration's oversight of airline security. After a recent flight in a general aviation aircraft, from New Jersey Teterboro Airport to Washington Dulles Airport, Goldberg turned his attention to security among the general aviation community — and he didn't like what he saw. His commentary posted online (click here) related his trip as a guest aboard a corporate twin-engine aircraft and his view of the lax security involved in his getting on board. Though he acknowledged that the FBO at Teterboro (Signature Flight Support) had a security gate, he implied that simply knowing the tail number of the airplane could have allowed access to an al Qaida terrorist with a satchel full of weapons or a dirty bomb. He was not satisfied with the pilots' security measures, and appeared aghast that his companion had met them only that morning (though he was presumably well known to the company that operates the airplane). Goldberg's most profound error in reporting was to ask his fellow passenger what would stop him from commandeering the aircraft, then quoting his friend in the article as though his assessment of the situation were in any way authoritative. "There's nothing stopping you. All you need is money to buy a plane or charter." With all due respect to Goldberg's friend's expertise as a passenger, the logic is blind to all that is fundamental to general aviation security. Unlike the airlines (which is where Goldberg's expertise lies), the fact is that those controlling the passenger list DO know who he is and why it's safe to have him on their airplane — and they have nothing but powerful incentive to ensure that it stays that way. There is some hope that Goldberg's colleague at Atlantic, Cirrus pilot and author James Fallows, will set him straight. On his Atlantic post, Fallows wrote, "I'll invite Jeff Goldberg, from the next office, and explain to him en route why his worries about the terrorist threat from small planes are unfounded. After I double-check his ID and give him a pat-down. More on the small-plane 'menace' soon." Thanks, James.