To help journalists cover aviation issues and security,
Tara Hamilton of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
developed this guide for NewsLab. We've also posted useful links
for covering aviation. And check this tip sheet on covering
- Know who runs your airport: the city, county or a regional authority.
Regional authorities often have more independence in dealing with
the news media than city or county-run airports. (Directory
of airport Web sites, by state.)
- Know what the airport is responsible for: operating the airport,
providing services ranging from parking to newsstands, and undertaking
massive capital construction programs. It is not responsible for
aircraft nor for all safety and security requirements.
- Know your airport's operations. Is it a hub, an O&D airport?
Is there an FBO and how much of the business is local? If these
terms are foreign to you, you don't know your airport. Check this
list of key terms to find out.
- Find out what the ground rules are for parking your news vehicles
during regular coverage and emergency situations. Know where you
can shoot video in the terminals.
- Get to know your airport better. Contact the media relations
office to get on their media contact list and to request a tour
and an opportunity to get generic b-roll. See if you can also
visit the airport operations or command center. Invite the airport
director and media staff to visit your station for a getting-to-know-you
- Know what the airline controls: The space they lease, both on
the ramp area (aircraft parking area) and in the terminals, is
considered their private property. Media requests to access ticket
counter or gate areas often must be directed to the specific airline
that leases that area.
- Airlines are responsible for the service the passenger receives
when he or she arrives at the ticket counter, waits at the gate
area, boards the aircraft and is in flight. Airports will not
usually comment on those topics unless the airport is involved
in an emergency or criminal situation involving the aircraft or
The Federal Government
- Know which airlines service your airport. (Directory
of airline Web sites.) Most airline corporate communications
offices have 24-hour numbers and contacts. Create a list and make
it available to the entire newsroom. Some provide taped messages
in the early hours of an emergency situation to give the media
some basic information.
- The Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) is responsible for licensing pilots,
airlines, and airports for certain operations. The FAA also operates
the Air Traffic Control System, which directs all the aircraft
that fly across the country. The FAA is the source for information
about weather delays, airport conditions, runway safety, unruly
passengers, even airplane collisions with birds.
- The Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) was created by Congress to oversee
security of all transportation systems, not just aviation, in
the country. Its first year of existence, however, has focused
on aviation and on putting in place a security screening system
carried out by federal TSA employees (eventually) in all 429 commercial
airports in the country. The TSA can provide information about
the federal takeover of security screening at your airport and
the status of screening equipment.
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent
federal agency which investigates every civil aviation accident
in the United States and significant accidents in the other modes
of transportation -- railroad, highway, marine and pipeline --
and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents.
Airports and airlines will work closely with the NTSB in responding
to media inquiries after an accident. The NTSB
website contains helpful information about media access to
Hub: An airport where an airline
has a major presence of flights in order to facilitate connecting
and originating traffic.
FBO: Fixed base operator: Private
company that offers a range of aviation services like selling fuel,
doing maintenance, providing flight instruction, chartering planes
and so forth. Check this list of local
Load factor: The percentage
of available seats that are filled with paying passengers, or the
percent of freight capacity that is used.
Market share: The volume of
sales, expressed as a percentage, achieved by one company in a specific
geographic area, compared to all sales of similar proceeds or of
Meeters and greeters: Term
for people who come to the airport but don't get on an aircraft.
Gate: The area in the airport
terminal or concourse where passengers wait to board the aircraft.
Jetbridge: The bridge that passengers
walk on from the gate area onto or off of the aircraft, usually
Non-stop vs. direct flights:
A flight that goes from one city to another without stopping vs.
one plane that goes from one city to another but makes an intermediate
O&D: Origin and destination.
O&D airports like Reagan National Airport in Washington mainly
serve flights that originate or terminate there, as distinct from
connecting flights that go on to another destination.
Open skies: Refers to an agreement
between two countries allowing unrestricted air services between
Carrier: One of the major
airline carriers, operating the larger jet aircraft.
Regional carrier: An airline
with annual operating revenues of less than $100 million.
A smaller jet powered aircraft, typically 50 seats or fewer.
Shuttle: A short-haul high
frequency service usually scheduled every hour.
Slots: Take off and landing
berths at certain airports, which are strictly allotted at certain
times of the day due to congestion.