Dear Mr. Barker,
Your article about the closure of the parking on Frontage Road area near the Orlando International Airport has recently been brought to my attention.
As an airline employee and aviation enthusiast living in the UK, I have for many years travelled the world with the express aim of taking pictures of airliners. Many of my trips to photograph airplanes have involved visits to the US, but others have involved travelling contries that many would regard as "risky", including Colombia, Russia, China and a number of other Asian, African and South American destination. Of course, the US has always offered the unique combination of a wide variety of airplanes and a relaxed attitude to enthusiasts such as me (as well as offering other attractions), and therefore I have typically visited the US at least once a year, many of these trips incorporating visits to Florida in general, and to Orlando in particular.
I am not alone in persuing the hobby of airplane photography, and Florida is typically visited by many aviation enthusiasts each year, both from the rest of the US and from many other countries, particularly Europe. I would not pretend that the revenue local businesses derive from such visits matches that generated by more general tourism, but such visits obviously generate significant income for your local economy as enthusiasts spend money in hotels, and restaurants, with car rental companies, and in shops. The closure of areas such as Frontage Road obviously places such income at risk, as enthusiasts will simply not visit the area if there is no opportunity to take photographs, or if they are likely to be troubled by the local police.
If you want any clarification of what this hobby is about, might I point you at http://www.airliners.net
which as it currently stands is a database of around 300,000 pictures of airplanes - amongst them you will find over 1,500 pictures taken at Orlando International Airport. If you take a browse around that website, I'm sure you will agree that airplane photography could in no way be regarded as a threat to aviation security.
In respect of airport security and the closure of the parking areas on Frontage Road, modern technology means that any terrorist attempt directed at airliner landing at Orlando International Airport could be launched from locations some considerable distance from the runway (possibly several miles away). Any attempt to target an airliner would be much less likely to attract attention and the perpetrators would be much more likely to evade the authorities, if such action was launched from a remote locations rather than from the rather conspicuous parking areas along Frontage Road. It is also worth considering that an aviation enthusiast with a camera will firstly recognise suspicious activity and secondly is hardly likely to disregard it. Such people, present in locations such as Frontage Road might even take a photograph of a perpitrator should anyone attempt anything stupid - at the very least, such photographers are likely to dial 911 on their cell phones and alert the appropriate authorities if they see anything suspicious. So, in many ways, aviation enthusiasts can be the unpaid eyes and ears around an airport that could actually enhance rather than jeopardise security. Finally, I might also point out that whilst Europe has been subject to direct terrorist actions for considerably longer than the US, areas similar to Frontage Road have remained available to enthusiasts, primarily because such hobbies are recognised as non-threatening, and it saddens me that the US has adopted "knee jerk" reactions rather than make a true assessment of where threats are likely to come from.
I hope that I've been able to explain that watching airplanes from locations such as Frontage Road is not a threat to aviation security, and in a small way might actually enhance security. Keeping such areas open will also ensure that a relatively small but consitant source of income for your city remains in place for years to come, and will allow enthusiasts such as myself to continuing enjoying both the airplanes and the other attractions Orlando has to offer.
Very best regards,