HolyCoast: Is There a Light Airplane Terror Threat?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Is There a Light Airplane Terror Threat?

I'm not so sure:
The FBI and Homeland Security have issued a nationwide warning about al-Qaida threats to small airplanes, just days before the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Authorities say there is no specific or credible terrorist threat for the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But they have stepped up security nationwide as a precaution.

According to a five-page law enforcement bulletin issued Friday, as recently as early this year, al-Qaida was considering ways to attack airplanes.

The alert, issued ahead of the summer’s last busy travel weekend, said terrorists have considered renting private planes and loading them with explosives.

“Al-Qaida and its affiliates have maintained an interest in obtaining aviation training, particularly on small aircraft, and in recruiting Western individuals for training in Europe or the United States, although we do not have current, credible information or intelligence of an imminent attack being planned,” according to the bulletin obtained by The Associated Press.
Sometimes I wonder how much of these types of warnings are legitimate and how much is just an excuse for more government oversight.

Renting a small plane is not like renting a car from Avis. You don't just show up, give them your license and a credit card, and then fly off. Most aircraft clubs will not rent to a stranger without first sending that person up with an instructor to check them out on the aircraft. When I switched to a new flight school in San Diego I had to undergo two check flights with instructors from the school before I was allowed to fly on my own. They were checking me out as well as my flying skills.

And you can't just take an airplane and load it full of explosives without somebody noticing. Even small airports have lots of eyes around - other pilots who frequent the place - who will notice unusual activity around an unfamiliar plane.

There have been a couple of incidents in which disturbed jihadist-wanna be's flew light planes into buildings. Because of the slow speeds, small fuel load, and relatively light construction, small planes are not that big of a threat.

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