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Aircraft Lighter Ban Also Applies to Servicemembers

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2005 – Anyone -- including servicemembers -- carrying lighters will be required to surrender them at U.S. airport security checkpoints before boarding aircraft under a new federal law that became effective April 14, Transportation Security Administration officials said.

The new law also applies to military and civilian passengers on commercially chartered U.S. military overseas flights, noted Army Lt. Col. Scott Ross, a spokesman with U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

"Due to al Qaeda's continued efforts to create improvised explosive devices, prohibiting lighters onboard aircraft and in the sterile areas of airports will reduce current security vulnerabilities and add another layer of defense," a TSA document stated.

President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 on Dec. 17, 2004. The act mandates that butane lighters be added to the list of items prohibited from being carried aboard aircraft that depart from or land at U.S. commercial airports.

The new law applies to "anything that produces a flame," including Zippo brand and other lighters, said TSA spokesman Chris Jolma. However, aircraft passengers may still carry up to four books of matches, according to TSA documents.

The law also bans lighters from being placed in both carry-on luggage and cargo baggage, according to the TSA.

"Wherever there's a TSA (security) checkpoint, we're responsible for enforcing the law," Jolma noted, adding, "Folks should definitely inspect their baggage before going to the airport, just to avoid the hassle."

On Dec. 22, 2001, passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 63 en route from Paris to Miami stopped British citizen Richard Reid from lighting a fuse attached to an explosive hidden inside his sneakers.

Reid, a self-confessed al-Qaeda sympathizer, was later convicted in a U.S. federal court of trying to blow up the plane. He is now serving a life sentence.

Jolma agreed Reid's failed attempt to bring down Flight 63 alerted U.S. authorities of the need to tighten up airline security. And, he pointed out, global terrorists continue to look for "innovative means" to bring down aircraft.

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