- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

The Transportation Security Administration published new rules yesterday requiring searches of passengers and baggage for large privately chartered aircraft that would be similar to searches done by airlines.
While the chartered-aircraft industry worries the rules will frustrate customers, the senator who pushed for the searches of the private airplanes say the rules do not go far enough.
Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat, says smaller chartered aircraft weighing as little as 12,500 pounds should have passengers and baggage searched, rather than just airliner-sized aircraft as required by the TSA. The searches would be conducted by federal security screeners.
The rule published yesterday requires searches of customers of chartered airplanes weighing at least 95,000 pounds, comparable in size to a McDonnell Douglas DC-9. The planes typically carry from 90 to 250 passengers.
The rule is intended to prevent terrorists from hijacking airplanes large enough to inflict serious damage to people or property on the ground during a suicidal crash.
Transportation Undersecretary John Magaw, who heads the TSA, said the proposed rule represented an effort "to provide the traveling public with the highest possible level of safety and customer service."
Planes that weigh about 12,500 pounds include six-seater business jets, such as the Cessna Citation Jet and the Raytheon Premier I.
Commercial airlines are required to search passengers and baggage on all airplanes weighing 12,500 pounds or more, but privately chartered aircraft operators are exempt.
"It is beyond my comprehension that passengers on a 60-seat jet would not have to undergo even the most cursory of checks to make sure they do not have weapons on themselves or in their carry-on baggage," Mr. Kohl said in a letter of protest Monday to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
"Why wouldn't a well-funded terrorist choose to charter such a plane and use it as a weapon against those on the ground?" Mr. Kohl wrote in his letter.
Mr. Kohl introduced legislation last fall that would require the Transportation Department to develop a security plan for chartered aircraft.
He said FBI, Defense Department and Federal Aviation Administration officials have all conceded to him that chartered aircraft represent a security risk.
In his letter to Mr. Mineta this week, Mr. Kohl said a fully fueled 91,000-pound Gulfstream V would have more explosive power than any conventional weapon used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Passengers and their baggage on a chartered Gulfstream V would not need to be searched under the proposed TSA rules.
Chartered-aircraft owners say the searches might frustrate their customers without adding to security.
"It would be a great source of irritation to the typical passenger," said Monty Lilley, owner of Gaithersburg-based Congressional Air Charters Inc., which operates six aircraft. "It's one of the typical reasons they charter."
Unlike the average airline passenger, chartered-aircraft customers are usually wealthy frequent fliers.
"We know the vast majority of our passengers," Mr. Lilley said. "I see it basically as an exercise in futility."
The TSA plans to accept public comments for the next month on its proposed rule.

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