Airport watch concept helps nab 'bad guys'

Aug 13, 2004

Here’s proof that GA airports really are small communities and that the “residents” know when something is amiss. On Wednesday, this led to the nabbing of some suspicious characters at St. Louis Downtown Airport. It all started when a man telephoned an FBO (Fixed based operator) not far from the Gateway Arch and asked about chartering a helicopter. About an hour later, two men walked into the FBO, pulled out cash to pay for the flight, and presented driver’s licenses from two different states as ID. Office staff noticed their car was registered in a third state and called the FBI and local police. FBO workers stalled the two suspects until the authorities arrived. After a little time behind bars, the two “terrorists” confessed that they were NBC employees from New York. Their assignment: A story on how “easy” it is to get information and directions to a helicopter and then hijack it. St. Louis was their first attempt; the network reportedly planned similar tries to penetrate security at airports around the country. “This incident demonstrates the validity of the Airport Watch concept,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Vigilant pilots and airport workers make the best security force because they know who does and doesn’t belong at the airport. They can easily spot the things that just don’t seem right.”