Proposed Security Restrictions Could Make Private Jets Less Attractive

A controversial proposal by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration could change the way business jets and other larger, privately owned aircraft operate in Houston. It's called the large aircraft security program and would add a thick layer of security that hasn't been seen before in general, non-commercial aviation.

 "It imposes a tremendous personal liberty burden and economic burden on people and companies owning aircraft weighting more than 12,500 pounds."

Chris Dancy is with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a 416-thousand member organization. He says the TSA's proposal to impose commercial air-carrier type security on large personal and corporate aircraft is to say the least, unpopular.

"The Transportation Security Administration got 7000 comments on this proposal. None of them were positive that we're aware of. We do know that at the five public meetings that they held for input, everyone who stood up to speak spoke against the proposal."

The Large Aircraft Security Program is the TSA's way of ensuring larger private or corporate aircraft aren't used by terrorists. This is the TSA's Carrie Harmon.

"These large jets could represent a security vulnerability if someone were to commandeer one and attempt to use it as a weapon or to bring dangerous items or people into the United States or transport them around the United States."

Among other things, the LASP would require aircraft owners and operators to do background checks on pilots and compare passengers names to a national terror watch list. It would also keep passengers from boarding with items that aren't allowed as carry-on's on commercial aircraft, things like golf clubs and tools.

"This program was not proposed in response to a particular threat. It's just part of our looking at the big picture and saying where there might there be vulnerabilities and what can we do, in partnership with the industry, to address those."

But the AOPA's Chris Dancy says the TSA is starting down a slippery slope.

"You're now at a point where anyone can say, well what if the bad guys did this, or what if the bad guys did that, whether or not it is truly a realistic, a credible threat. And to start imposing regulations and burdens based on "what if" we believe does go farther than it needs to." 

Ed Bolen is the president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Administration. He says he hopes the TSA is willing to negotiate.

"We want to do our part to harden our industry against attack. We think every industry has that responsibility and we have a long track record or reaching out to the federal government, offering ideas, taking voluntary actions. So we'd like to work in partnership with them to get this done and hopefully we'll be able to do that."

The comment period for the proposal ended about a month ago. There's no word yet on when, or even if the TSA's proposal will go into effect.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...