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Alarm at Austin plane crash troubles pilots

Many in the general aviation community urge regulators not to overreact to Thursday's crash.

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“Our major concern in the wake of the situation in Austin is always overreaction,” says Chris Dancy, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in Frederick, Md. Mr. Dancy recalls the safety issues posed by a midair collision last year in New York when a plane and a sightseeing helicopter collided, resulting in calls to severely clamp down on the airspace. Instead, a compromise was found.

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Congress may hold hearings

The incident in Austin this week may push lawmakers to hold hearings to look at safety within the general aviation community or to consider ways to further regulate the industry.

Mr. McCaul says that while such incidents do raise national security concerns, nothing about this particular one should in and of itself force new regulation.

“There are legitimate homeland concerns, but Congressman McCaul opposes any further regulation of general aviation,” said spokesman Mike Rosen. “He does not think that any regulation of any type or of any form would have prevented the kind of attack that happened yesterday.”

But when it comes to national security, emotion can muddy the regulatory waters. One expert predicts that there will be an attempt to create “cosmetic” fixes that improve the look of general aviation security even if such improvements don’t actually have an effect.

Instead, argues Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law in San Antonio, the government should use its limited resources not to buy expensive security equipment for airports but instead to focus on identifying schemes and gathering intelligence that can stop plots before they occur.

“They need to focus their energy toward techniques that are aimed at identifying these people long before they begin their murderous attack,” says Mr. Addicott.

Ulimately, some acts of violence will happen no matter what is done to prevent them, says James Carafano, a senior analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation and an expert in homeland security. “These things are going to happen. The notion that we can child-proof America is just ridiculous.”

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