LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Now we've got an update for the government's plans for small planes and small airports. The Transportation Security Administration is backing off a plan to impose tough new security requirements on private planes and the airports they often use. NPR's Robert Benincasa reports.
ROBERT BENINCASA: In 2008, TSA said that as security on commercial airlines got better, terrorists might see private planes as easier targets.
So the agency proposed tough new security rules for general aviation that's private travel for business or pleasure. It's an industry worth $150 billion a year.
The government would have required all passengers to be checked against terrorist watch lists. And about 300 small airports would have needed costly new security programs.
But the general aviation industry sent in thousands of complaints. Pilots and airport operators argued that the risk from terrorism is small. Plus, they said, private pilots are already very cautious about who they let on their airplanes.
Now the TSA is scrapping major portions of that proposal.
TSA general aviation manager Brian Delauter said the agency now plans to collaborate more with the industry on security.
Mr. BRIAN DELAUTER (General Aviation Manager, TSA): We're going to be ten times more successful in partnership than we are going to be being combative back and forth to each other.
BENINCASA: Delauter told NPR that his agency will substantially increase the size of the airplanes covered by a revised security plan coming out this fall. It had contemplated covering aircraft that weigh only about as much as two SUV's.
Also, the TSA will rely more on pilots to keep their flights secure.
Mr. DELAUTER: Based off the response we got from the operators and the pilots, that they wanted the onus on them, so we're going to put the responsibility on them. I mean it's pretty much doing a lot of what they're doing now. We're just really going to define it.
BENINCASA: The change in course at TSA was welcome news to Mike Mickel, who has an aviation services and charter business at Chesterfield County Airport near Richmond, Virginia.
Before he heard about the changes, he was worried that TSA rules would interfere with his business.
Last week, he took me aboard one of his jets. He showed me how a possible ban on items like baseball bats and golf clubs from airplane cabins made no sense especially for a small plane without a separate cargo area.
Mr. MIKE MICKEL (Aviation Business Owner): This is where the bags go.
BENINCASA: Right here?
Mr. MICKEL: Right here. And we have some extra in the back.
BENINCASA: Right behind the flight deck.
Mr. MICKEL: Yeah, right behind the flight deck. So we stack the golf clubs right here and then the passengers are back there.
BENINCASA: As a former general aviation pilot, the TSA's Delauter understood Mickel's objections.
Mr. DELAUTER: Most of the jets that I flew, it had that exact same situation. To tell, you know, a professional golfer that you're taking to a tournament that they can't bring their golf clubs, you know, from a business standpoint it probably doesn't work.
BENINCASA: When told of the modifications TSA is now considering, Mickel said he thinks the government listened to the concerns coming from general aviation.
Mr. MICKEL: It appears to me that they looked at what would be encompassing these burdensome regulations and realized that they wouldn't get the benefit there really isn't a security risk there.
BENINCASA: But Delauter says there's still a risk, even if there's no specific threat. In March, his agency will convene a new general aviation advisory panel with industry representatives aimed at managing that risk.
Robert Benincasa, NPR News, Washington.
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