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Tue, Aug 12, 2008

TSA Once Again Targets General Aviation Planes

Hints Strongly At Regulating Private Planes

Either the Transportation Security Administration has found evidence that small planes really are a security threat, or the airline industry has called in a marker somewhere to fight competition from general aviation.

USA Today reports the TSA plans a massive expansion of aviation security that for the first time will regulate thousands of private planes now flying with no security rules.

Despite the facts that automobiles are the overwhelming vehicle of choice for bomb-minded terrorists -- and a small plane has never been used in such an attack -- TSA is bringing its solution in search of a problem. Michal Morgan, TSA head of general aviation security, says about 15,000 small aircraft and 4,700 airports they frequent will now come under the agency's watchful eye.

Measures are expected to include checking flight crew backgrounds, parking planes in secure areas and inspecting the planes themselves. So far, TSA is only talking about planes over 12,500 pounds, and there's been no word yet on whether passengers will be screened.

Aviation-security consultant Glen Winn told the paper there is a legitimate security hole which must be addressed. "There's a huge window that's open, and I do believe they've got to close that," said Winn... who, notably, is a former chief of security for United Airlines.

While GA and business aviation groups cross their fingers and hope the plan will be workable, one bizav vendor says there may actually be an upside. Eric Byer is head of government affairs for the National Air Transportation Association, which represents companies that service business jets. He says the new security rules will be a little bit of an inconvenience, but might draw some passengers who now are worried about private planes.

"Having a program like this will make (private planes) even more secure," he said.

And, of course, if the TSA crackdown makes the non-flying public feel safer, it will have achieved it's real goal... regardless of any actual benefits.

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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