Our local airport (MYF) is under threat—not by the neighbors, not by criminals, but by the very operators of our airport. They are well intentioned. We have had “incidents”. These incidents aren’t security hazards; they are taxiway and runway incursions. Not one has resulted in a risk of collision with an aircraft. These “incidents” get reported, analyzed and scrutinized. The FAA can always threaten our airport funding if this is not fixed. As a result, the operators are rushing to create a solution that could greatly impair our access and change a key component of our lives.
There has been no collaboration. There have not been meetings, there has not been a request to explore alternate solutions, instead there is an edict. We will have an access card system.
The problem is that most of the “incidents” have been caused by people who would have access under a card system. What the card system does is provide the opportunity to require mandatory training for card-holders and it provides the opportunity to threaten taking away the card. What the card system also does is make it much more burdensome for us—and particularly our passengers—to have access to our aircraft.
The reason the lack of collaboration is so problematic, is that there was no opportunity to explore other, equally effective, less burdensome solutions. For instance, if the goal is to have airport users block entrance to others until the gate closes, the set-up for it should make it practical. At MYF, once you go far enough from the gate to get it to close that there is room for another car behind you, there is no practical way to block non-compliant entrance without the risk of a physical altercation. We have had people drive around us and through the gate while we were waiting for the gate to close. In order to make prevention of tailgating practical and safe, gates and corridors should be designed to allow only one vehicle to pass at a time—even when the leading vehicle has pulled forward to allow the gate to close. This would allow the design of the system to provide the enforcement rather than transferring the burden and risk of enforcement to the user.
The delay for gate closure should be minimized. It is not practical to expect users to accept inordinate delays while waiting for the gate to close. Unnecessarily long waits tempt even the most conscientious users. Let’s get a practical gate system that not just saints would comply with. And the extended delay increases the risk of an altercation with an annoyed driver behind you.
The signs should request that airport users monitor for non-compliant entrance and report it rather than accosting the non-compliant entrant. The signs should give us a local number to call to report incidents—after all we all have cell phones. But let’s be practical, it would be of no use for us to call the national 800 number for that kind of incident.
Additionally, it is not and should not be the role of the airport user to intercept and have an altercation with people who do not follow the rules. Our role should be to report the behavior and it should be made practical for us to do it.
We all want a safe, yet accessible airport. Implementing a gate card system without implementing training, and improving the gate operation and signage, won’t work. If we do these things first, we won’t need the gate card system. If we all cooperate we can have reasonable airport security and reasonable access at the same time.