The Reagan administration asked Congress yesterday to increase fines tenfold against airlines violating safety rules and to make it a federal crime for unauthorized persons to enter restricted airport areas.
Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole said she wants the maximum fine for airlines and other operators of commercial aircraft to be increased to $10,000 from $1,000 for each safety violation.
The largest penalty leveled by the Federal Aviation Administration was $9.5 million against Eastern Airlines. Eastern contested the fine but has agreed to pay.
Dole said the higher penalties "should serve as a greater deterrent to safety violations."
Last year, Congress refused to grant the authority to impose stronger penalties.
The $1,000 limit has been in force since 1938, when the dollar's purchasing power was considerably greater.
Concerning airport security, Dole said unauthorized entrance of secured areas "should be forcefully proscribed by federal law" to combat terrorist threats.
Under the proposal, persons convicted of entering restricted airport areas would face a $1,000 fine and one year in prison. However, if the entry occurred with the intention to commit a felony, the penalty would increase to $10,000 and 10 years in prison.
Last Thursday, Dole directed the FAA to make a more aggressive effort to ensure that airlines tighten procedures for screening passengers and carry-on baggage.
The proposed legislation also includes a provision that would bring aircraft used by state and local governments under the FAA's safety requirements.
Such aircraft, which currently are not subject to many federal regulations, would include medical evacuation helicopters.