It remains to be seen exactly what impact Thursday’s intentional crash of a single-engine Piper Dakota into an Austin, Texas IRS building will have on any new general aviation security restrictions. However, industry leaders are cautioning against overreaction.
“It is important in the days ahead that we not overreact to this isolated act of suicide by a deeply troubled person and jeopardize the ability of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding U.S. citizens to fly,” said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association president Craig Fuller. “We need to let the accident and law enforcement investigations proceed and not rush to ill-informed judgments or precipitous actions.”
Steve Brown, NBAA vice president of operations and administration, said the decision by local law enforcement to close the Georgetown, Texas airport, where the flight originated, for seven hours in the wake of the crash was “fairly standard law enforcement procedure, like you would see at any other crime scene” and where local and state officials sought to reassure the public. “I can tell you categorically that there is no cause for concern from a law enforcement or terrorism perspective,” said Austin police chief Art Acevedo.
Texas governor Rick Perry urged the public “to refrain from speculation and let the law enforcement experts determine what exactly unfolded.”
Brown said the NBAA monitored the airport closing and did not find it “unreasonable” under the circumstances. He said that he did not expect the “tragic and unfortunate event” to have an adverse effect on general aviation in the long run, even as new GA security measures are pondered by the Transportation Security Administration. “But we will have to see what happens over time,” he said.
Against the backdrop of the FBI taking control of the investigation from the NTSB, some elected officials were quick to react otherwise. However, a spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul of Austin and a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said McCaul “opposes any regulation on general aviation as the result of this crash.”