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Red tape cut for private international flights
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Security officials on Monday unveiled simpler procedures for clearing private planes to fly to and from the United States, allowing them to submit a single manifest for review against government watchlists.
After the September 11, 2001, attacks in which commercial jetliners were hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, U.S. authorities expressed concerns about gaps in security for flights by private planes as well.
There are more than 100 so-called general aviation flights entering and departing the United States daily. Authorities check the passenger and crew lists for people who are on a U.S. government security list, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
In February, a Texas man angered by a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service, flew his private plane into a federal building in Austin which housed the offices for the tax collection agency killing himself and one IRS worker.
Under the streamlined process, to start September 1, pilots and private plane operators will be able to submit a single manifest of passengers for international flights to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, TSA said.
Previously they had to submit them to TSA as well.
"We are encouraged to see TSA and CBP collaborating to streamline the process for our members and eliminate unnecessary paperwork and redundant procedures," said Craig Fuller, head of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
In 2008, operators of international flights using private planes to and from the United States were ordered to submit in advance their passenger and crew lists before departure.
In addition, U.S. officials on Monday called for greater vigilance by private airplane owners for possible terrorism plots as part of an effort to enhance security as militant groups look for new ways to attack the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security has been pushing to raise awareness for security issues, and urged anyone who sees something that looks unusual to report it, much the way people did when they told police about smoke coming from a car in New York's Times Square on May 1 that turned out to be a crude bomb.
"We ask that general aviation pilots and community members join us in helping to keep general aviation secure through 'If You See Something, Say Something,'" said John Pistole, the new TSA head.
Militant groups still continue to focus on using planes to mount attacks. On Christmas Day 2009 a Nigerian man tried to detonate a bomb aboard a U.S. commercial flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The device failed to explode and he was subdued.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Eric Beech)
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