by Jake Bross
GRAND LEDGE–Grand Ledge’s Abrams Municipal Airport is not a large commercial airport. It only covers 160 acres.
Because of this, high security tactics are not as necessary as other larger airports across the United States.
“Our security needs are pretty minute,” said Pete Kamarainen, president of the airport. “Everybody knows everybody. If a plane flies in that we don’t know, we learn who they are and where they’re going.”
Because of the size and private ownership of the airport, security necessities are minimal.
There are two types of security, said Jon Bayless, airport manager for the airport and city administrator of Grand Ledge.
“There’s a program sponsored by the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association,” said Bayless. “There’s an alliance between that group and the Federal Aviation Administration and the Homeland Security Department to be on the watch of suspicious activity.”
This means that if there are people at the airport conducting unusual activities with suspicious behavior, then all local pilots and plane owners have a moral obligation to report the activity and individuals to law enforcement agencies.
“That whole process was put into place with the hopes that a certain level of security could be accomplished without the need for the Federal Government to put officers in every little airport,” said Bayless.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association is also partnered with the Transportation Security Administration. The watch program uses more than 600,000 pilots for observing suspicious activity, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association website.
The other type of security involves the National Guard. Although this security is minimal, the National Guard does keep an eye on the small airport, said Kamarainen.
Since Abrams Municipal Airport is privately owned with private pilots and passengers, Kamarainen remains satisfied with the security at the airport.
“You could make it safe by posting a guard at an entrance, and having barbed wire fencing,” said Kamarainen, “but you’d have to have a trade-off between the freedom of flying balanced against somebody with a bad motive, and our security that we have now fits.”
While many passengers remain insecure about the idea of flying due to terrorism threats in recent years, including 9/11, there are still reservations about the security necessities.
After 9/11, Abrams Municipal Airport, as well as many other small airports, prepared an airport security plan.
“There was quite a bit of tension and concern over small airport security after 9/11,” said Bayless, recalling an incident, not long after that September day, when a young man in Florida flew a single engine airplane into an office building.
Twelve years after 9/11, Kamarainen is proud of the current security plans instilled in Abrams Municipal Airport.
“My thoughts of terrorism are not a concern here really, more for other airports that would be more of a target,” said Kamarainen. “Our security policies are strong.”