Stand by for an hysteria overload over rural flights and women behaving badly after this morning’s stabbings and bomb threats on a small aircraft in New Zealand. Also stand by for the private owners of the big city airports and Qantas and Virgin Blue to make a “killing” from any government overreaction.

Small planes like the one in the NZ attack are exempt from the universal requirement to have reinforced cockpit doors in aircraft with more than 30 seats, which in some cases, would weigh so much some types of lighter commuter aircraft couldn’t even take off.

A taxi type driver screen won’t work in the smallest commuter planes because pilots and passengers use the same door in an emergency.

Rural Australia has many airports where the security fences don’t fully enclose anything, and all a lazy terrorist needs to avoid the walk around at either end is a pair of bolt cutters.

If government makes any attempt to recover the massive expense involved in making outback airports terrorist proof by adding to ticket prices, regional aviation services would become impossibly expensive and come to an end over much of the geographical extent of Australia. And the major privately owned airports and the big two domestic carriers would celebrate. Small commuter flights like the one involved in the Christchurch incident are taking up valuable slots that the airports and mainline carriers have always been keen to take over for bigger jets.

But the law “ring fences” rural access especially at Sydney, preserving the small flights the big end of air transport wants to be rid of.

It would not be surprising to see interests like Sydney Airport argue that the “sensible” solution is to banish these small flights to smaller airports like Bankstown, all in the interests of security, of course.

Peter Fray

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