- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Few flight schools have security measures in place that could have averted a Florida teen-ager from crashing a small plane into a skyscraper.
Instructors say even with the heightened awareness after the September 11 terrorist attacks, there is little they can do to identify a dangerous would-be pilot, though some are reviewing their procedures anew.
"You don't know how an individual's mind is going to work," said Joe Siligato, owner of Spirit Mountain Aviation, a flight school and charter service in Cody, Wyo.
Charles J. Bishop of Palm Harbor, Fla., was killed in the Saturday evening crash. The 15-year-old was supposed to be checking equipment on the four-seat 2000 Cessna 172R as his flight instructor had requested but instead took off without permission, police said.
A Coast Guard helicopter pursued him before he crashed near the 28th floor of the 42-story Bank of America building. No one inside the building was injured.
Although terrorism was quickly discounted, many still were asking: What if the renegade pilot was out to harm others?
Some flight schools reacted immediately to the new threat. Greg Russell, general manager of CSG Aviation Services in Columbus, Ga., said he plans to convene his employees today to review security procedures.
"We've already made some drastic changes since September 11 and we'll probably make sure we do a little more now," Mr. Russell said.
Andy Dutzi, director of the Flight School at Palm Springs, Calif., said he has a 15-year-old student, and in light of the Tampa crash, he intends to talk to teachers or counselors at Charles' school to ask about his state of mind.
But most said there was little they could do to prevent a similar situation, where instructors have come to know and trust a student.
"What the flight instructor did was what normally happens," said Warren Morningstar, vice president of communications for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. "There really was not a security breach. There was an abuse of trust here."
An instructor typically accompanies a student for the equipment check during the initial lessons, but it is routine at many schools for novice pilots eventually to do the preflight check alone.
"Everybody does that. How many times have you heard of people taking them and flying into buildings?" said Andy Surratt, owner of PilotMakers in West Chicago, Ill.
Mr. Morningstar added that it is unlikely that a small plane, which typically weighs less than a compact car, could cause significant damage, much less anything like what commercial jumbo jets were able to do to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11.
"It's not a terribly efficient vessel," he said. "It's not terribly fast. It can't carry very much weight."

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