I taught a helicopter lesson today at the Bedford airport, a combined civilian/military field. Our helicopters live in a hangar on Hanscom Air Force Base so we often need to drive through the main gates of the base to get to our machines. After September 11, 2001, Massport invested heavily in additional security. We have fancy security gates everywhere. We have SIDA badges for which we must apply with our passports, take special training every two years, and undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting. In recent times the SIDA badge could be printed with a special logo that entitled the pilot to drive onto the base. This summer, however, the government decided that SIDA badge holders would have to come to an office on the base every year or two to apply for a Department of Defense ID. There doesn’t seem to be any additional security as a result of this additional ID, since it is issued automatically upon presentation of one’s SIDA badge and driver’s license.
Today at the main gate I was told that they really shouldn’t let me in because I had only the SIDA badge and not the additional ID, but then I was let in. After working with an instrument-helicopter student for a bunch of approaches (Air Traffic Control is up and running as usual), I decided to go to the badge office on the base. There was a sign on the door that said “All services are suspended due to the government shutdown, except for issuing [the particular card that I wanted].” I had heard horror stories about multi-hour waits in this office and indeed there were at least 50 chairs for adults plus a substantial kids’ play area. However, due to the shutdown, I was the only customer and I got my badge very quickly from the one uniformed soldier who was actively working. In another area of the shut-down office, four additional uniformed soldiers were chatting. They were being paid to come to the office, but due to the government shutdown had nothing to do.