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Tue, Feb 17, 2009

Report: LASP Would Devastate Alaskan Private Aviation

Bush Pilots Can Ill Afford New Costs, Industry Says

If the general aviation community needs any more examples of the harmful ramifications of the TSA's proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), one needs to look only at how the ways of life of many Alaskan pilots would be negatively impacted.

As ANN has reported, the Transportation Security Administration proposal calls for operators of all aircraft at, or over, 12,500 lbs. gross weight to implement the same security standards now in place for commercial airlines. That includes criminal background checks for all pilots and mechanics... and checking passengers against the federal "no-fly" list.

In addition to posing new costs for aircraft operators, at a time when many can barely afford to operate their planes as it is... industry groups maintain LASP also represents a negligible safety benefit for the money.

By the TSA's estimates, LASP would cost $1.9 billion to implement on approximately 10,000 aircraft nationwide affected under the proposed rules. With owners footing about 85 percent of the bill, that works out to around $190,000 per aircraft in costs, according to estimates by the National Business Aviation Association.

That figure includes the costs of background checks, as well as for onboard air marshals and new security checkpoints. LASP would also require some operators of affected planes to relocate their facilities to airports that have security checkpoints already in place... which would bring still more costs.

Bart Tiernan, past president of the Alaska Airmen's Association, told the Alaska Journal of Commerce about 100 freight planes in Alaska, owned by roughly 25 operators, would be affected. He didn't know how many privately-owned planes would also be affected by LASP, but said the number is likely substantial.

"The reality of this regulations is that it will once again add another expense, as an unfunded mandate, require aircraft owners to check their passengers before making a flight and is ridiculous because these aircraft don't have the range to fly anywhere where they could be used as a weapon of destruction, " said Tiernan.

The AJC also spoke with several pilots whose operations would be affected by LASP. Don Ballard, a pilot for Bush Air who uses a surplus DC-3 to fly building materials and mining equipment to remote locations in Alaska bush country, says his aircraft would only be so much 'scrap metal' if LASP becomes reality.

"This proposal is ludicrous," added John Reffertt, co-owner of two C-119 Flying Boxcars that operate from Palmer Municipal Airport (PAAQ). "This will force me to move the C-119s, where I am paying $200 a month, to Anchorage international -- if they will take the aircraft -- where I will have to pay $2,000 or more a month to park them."

As with the airlines, LASP would also implement a "prohibited items list" of what can and cannot be carried onboard an aircraft. That includes such Alaskan wilderness necessities as certain tools, knives, and firearms. In fact, LASP would even contradict Alaska state law, which allows pilots to stow firearms and other items in emergency survival kits.

Under the TSA's program, only tools or survival gear within immediate reach of the pilot while in flight would be allowed onboard.

"The large aircraft security program will impose new and onerous security regulations and restrictions on owners, operators, pilots, and passengers, flying in these privately owned aircraft and at medium and large airports that serve large aircraft," said aircraft owner Lars Gleitsmann. "In many cases the aircraft that will need these so called security mandates are not even worth the $190,000 that will have to be spent to make them legal to fly again."

Alaska state politicians are also opposed to LASP. Lee Ryan, chairman of the Governor's Advisory Board on Aviation, lamented the costs LASP would represent to what is a $4 billion industry in the state.

"This will have impacts in an already stressed industry," said Ryan.

The deadline for public comments on the LASP notice of proposed rulemaking is February 27. A TSA spokesperson told the AJC the security agency hopes "to learn more about the concerns of the aviation community about this anti-terrorism regulation for aircraft from comments posted on the NPRM docket."

FMI: www.nbaa.org/lasp, www.alaskaairmen.org

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