CAF Members Concerned Over Aircraft Proposal

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Bumpy skies ahead for the Commemorative Air Force, where several of the historic planes there could soon be tangled in red tape. The TSA has proposed the Large Aircraft Security Program. It's meant to protect Americans by reducing dangerous conditions on bigger planes. Officials at the C.A.F. said they're all for security, but the proposal is asking too much of a non-profit.

"It's kind of that first hand, tug at your heart, they get to experience it, and this would restrict who is allowed to fly, it would cause so much more problems," Autumn Esparza, with the CAF, said.

Esparza told NewsWest 9 on Thursday the new proposal includes detailed rules like fingerprints, background checks, and watch list matchings.  That's just fine for commerical arlines, she said, but impractical for their 14 planes around the country above 12,500 lbs.

"The way that it is written now, the proposal is kind of all incompassing of aircraft at that weight level," Esparza explained. "It doesn't separate out depending on what the aircraft is used for."

In Midland, that would mean more restrictions on their B-25 Mitchell, and FIFI, the B-29. The total cost for the organization would be 400,000 to 500,000 dollars over the next decade.

"Every dollar that comes in, goes to keeping these planes flying, especially on the ride programs and air shows," Esparza added. "That's where that money goes and it's not padding the C.A.F.'s pocket. It's keeping these planes in the air so that future generations can experience what some of us our losing that connection to."

Officials said they could still operate with the rules in place, however it would have a dramatic impact not only on the planes, but for ones who volunteer to fly them.

"It's a hobby for them, it's something that they love to do, but when you take away that love and make them do paperwork, sometimes it gets a little sticky and you can lose a lot of the people that what to be involved," Esparza said.

C.A.F. officials said they have been working with other aircraft organizations on giving them an exception in the proposal. Still no exact date on when the proposal will be voted on, but it could happen in as soon as a few months.