Private planes headed to Salt Lake must clear ‘gateway’ airport

By Chuck Oxley The Associated Press
Wednesday January 16, 2002

BOISE, Idaho — Pilots and passengers taking private or charter aircraft to Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics will have to detour through one of four gateway airports for security checks, and pilots must undergo background checks, the Federal Aviation Administration said. 

An FAA spokesman said the rule applies to all civil aircraft other than commercial airliners, from corporate jets to single-engine Cessnas. They must first stop in either Boise; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Grand Junction, Colo.; or Las Vegas. 

Passengers and pilots will be required to leave the aircraft and submit to personal searches. In Boise, no magnetometer or baggage X-ray machine will be available; each person will be individually searched and each bag will be hand inspected, said Lew Sanders, assistant manager at the FAA’s Boise office. 

“We’re going to do this in 15 minutes a plane — or at least that’s what we’re hoping. We may be dreaming. If you’ve got high rollers with bags filled to the back of the airplane, it’s going to take a while,” Sanders said. 

Security checks also will be required of pilots and passengers leaving the Salt Lake International Airport. 

One Idaho air taxi company said the restrictions may keep its aircraft out of Utah entirely. 

John Blakely, owner and pilot of the 35-employee Avcenter Inc., has 15 planes based in Boise, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. Blakely said he is certain that the FAA’s security regulations will result in loss of business for his company. 

“Our problems come from people who want to go to Salt Lake from Jackson (Wyo.) or Sun Valley, and we have to bring them to Boise first,” Blakely said. “We used to think the Olympics might be a good thing. But I don’t know if they’re going to want to jump through all those hoops.” 

Blakely charges $1,000 an hour for his turboprop air service. It usually takes about 45 minutes to fly from Sun Valley to Salt Lake City. But the additional stop in Boise will cost about $1,500 more. 

“We don’t know if we’ll do one trip to Salt Lake,” Blakely said. 

Pilots must also pass extensive background checks. Forty-eight hours before takeoff, they must call a U.S. Customs Service phone number in Salt Lake City and reserve a time for the security checks at one of the four gateway airports. 

The Boise airport will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Nine National Guardsmen, four FAA security specialists, and local police will perform the checks. Pilots will also be required to show proof that they have passed the federal background check. 

All flights will be restricted within 45 miles of the Salt Lake Airport from Feb. 8 through Feb. 24, Sanders said. Another spokesman said airspace near the Olympic venues will be restricted beginning Feb. 6, and airspace near the Olympic Village at the University of Utah campus will be restricted beginning Jan. 25.