But US security watchdog rejects accusations of discrimination against private operators from business aviation

US business aviation operators are increasingly frustrated by what they see as unfair and unnecessary security restrictions on the sector a year after 11 September.

They join a growing chorus of dissent over Washington's tough approach to preventing a repeat of last year's terror attacks, which has seen hour-long queues at airport security checkpoints, and bans on flights from the capital's city-centre Reagan National airport.

In a security seminar at this month's National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention in Orlando, Florida, one flight department executive warned that operators would continue to be given insufficient notice of decisions to shut or restrict flights into airspace around cities during major sporting and other events.

But one executive questioned the prospect of barring general aviation (GA) flights carrying US business people into New York, for example, while still allowing scheduled services from countries of which 11 September terrorists were citizens.

Ed Bolen, president and chief executive of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said at the convention that making business aviation pay for implementing tougher security measures was "like charging Pearl Harbor residents for Pacific Fleet upgrades at the start of World War II".

But a representative of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was at pains to stress that the new aviation security watchdog did not discriminate against private operators, and was keen to involve the sector.

"We invite general aviation to the TSA table," Tom Blank told delegates. "The TSA cannot succeed without the support of key stakeholders like NBAA."

However, Blank said security in the sector was crucial, and warned against complacency. "There are credible threats against general aviation every day," he added.

Meanwhile, the prospect of Washington National airport reopening to business aviation has had a boost. Airport manager Chris Browne said he was confident the ban on all but essential government flights would be relaxed soon.

But fixed-base operator Signature Flight Support is less sure. Washington DC was the BBA subsidiary's flagship site - it handled almost all the 200 daily business aviation movements before 11 September, and has since axed 51 of its 55 employees.

Source: Flight International